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3 Nonprofit Inclusivity Tips From Industry Experts

8 min read
February 18, 2022
Allison Smith headshot
Allison Smith
Content Marketing Coordinator, Neon One
nonprofit inclusion

To learn more about how nonprofits can weave diversity and inclusion into their organization from the top down, we look to the people who are doing the work. Below we’ll walk through learnings from several Generosity Xchange sessions focused on nonprofit inclusivity and diversity and how your organization can learn from them.

Look at Your Money Story

There are many challenges with fundraising, but did you know that your own relationship with money is one of them?

In Women and Nonprofit Work, nonprofit consultant Kishshana Palmer and nonprofit coach Mallory Erickson unpack how an individual’s “money story” (a personal narrative about money) and financial background can impact their comfort and efficiency in fundraising.

What is a money story? 

A money story is a personal narrative about money. It makes up your beliefs, thoughts, and feelings about money – and affects your financial behaviors. Money stories are often generational and culturally based.” – Amanda Kruse, Women Who Money

Your money story is influenced by your socio-economic background, culture, and family history. It impacts how you spend, save, and talk about money. It also influences what you perceive the money story of others to be.

Money stories hold a lot of weight in an individual’s value system (even if you aren’t even aware that you have one), so no matter how much you believe in your nonprofit’s mission, you’ll feel uncomfortable asking for donations without addressing your own money story.

For example, if you grew up being told that just talking about money is taboo, you’ll have a much harder time asking strangers for money every day. Because everyone has a unique money story, the emotional response and instincts around fundraising vary greatly.

“Our money story and the additional layers of our lived experience, make it more complicated, Kishshana Palmer says. “It makes what would be a puddle jump feel like swimming across the English channel. Over time, your continued professional experiences can widen the gulf between what felt possible when you were brand new and what feels true when you’ve gotten lumps and bumps and wins along the way.” 

Support Your Team 

Knowing how a personal relationship with money can subconsciously impact your fundraising, try to take a step back and recognize how individuals on your team may feel about the financial aspect of your work. There may be an extra layer of stress or emotional weight for certain staff members. Is there someone who loves to focus on program management, but shies away from budget talks? 

Instead of assuming the experience is the same for everyone, take the time to learn about your team’s backgrounds and how it impacts their day-to-day work. To get started, hold a series of meetings that ask questions that inspire self reflection. Ask them to think about their personal and familial relationship with money and how it’s changed over time, before and after becoming a fundraiser. For those who want to share, encourage people to speak candidly on how they’ve felt at the wins and the losses of their fundraising work.  

If your team has the budget, you could even hire a consultant to facilitate the conversation or take a financial leadership course. Learn more about the topic with the clip below.

Create More Inclusive Experiences

In a fireside chat, intersectional storyteller Denise Barreto and disability rights activist Imani Barbarin, discuss the disparity between how hard disability rights activists have to fight for accommodation versus how easy it actually was to “go virtual” at the onset of COVID-19.  

“All the things we figured out in 30 days, disability advocates have been begging for for years,” Denise Barreto says. 

Pre-pandemic, when people with disabilities asked for flexibility to work or learn remotely, they were often told it wasn’t possible. We now know that it’s not only possible, but that the advances in remote work and virtual events have created opportunities for even more progress to be made. 

With 1 in 4 adults in the U.S. having some type of disability, there is an entire facet of the workforce that will benefit from continued support of remote and flexible work and learning. So while the progress made during the pandemic is a start, it’s nowhere near enough. Imani Barbarin and Denise Barreto encourage nonprofit professionals to use the momentum to continue creating more inclusive experiences for employees, volunteers, donors, and beneficiaries. 

“Ask me what I need, because I can tell you.”

Imani Barbarin

The simplest way to ensure you are creating an inclusive experience for your employees and volunteers is to proactively ask your community members what they need instead of waiting for them to come to you. You never know who could be struggling in silence or has become used to not getting their needs met, and creating an accessible space where everyone feels physically and emotionally comfortable and supported is what inclusivity is all about. 

Once you have feedback from staff and supporters, put a plan in place to act on it. If there are long term changes that require budget and outside buy-in, be sure to keep your team informed so that they know it is a priority and you are making progress of some form. 

Make sure that your website and campaigns are fully accessible for potential donors, peer fundraisers, or beneficiaries who want to access your services. These small steps are the least that you can do as you continue to foster a culture of support at your organization. 

Don’t Take Advantage of the Passion of Marginalized Employees

Nonprofits tackle systemic issues and it’s possible that some of your employees developed their commitment for your cause through experiencing it firsthand.  “When you work the problem at work, and live the problem at home, you lose the barrier between work life and home life,” Imani Barbarin says. This can cause employees to put the mission over their own career advancement and earning potential.

The motivation to do charitable work because of first hand experience can be powerful and has led to many of our most inspiring sector leaders. But people who face obstacles should not be required to join the nonprofit workforce to see change, and if they do—they should not be exploited because of their commitment to the cause. 

Imani Barbarin posed this question to the group: “What would they be doing for their career if they didn’t experience this problem first hand? If they didn’t have to fight for their lives, basic needs, equal access to opportunity, what would their lives look like?”

Ensure that your nonprofit is a great place to work beyond the personal satisfaction you feel when you do good. This begins with paying staff fair and equitable wages with reasonable workloads.

Even if your wages can’t match the private sector, there are other ways to make your workplace more equitable. Promote your employees and provide advancement opportunities. Recognize and show your appreciation for your hard-working staff before they get overworked and completely burnt out. 

While overhead and operational costs are difficult to budget for,  fair pay is a non-negotiable aspect of running an equitable organization. 


Times are slowly starting to change for the better, but it’s not enough. It comes down to your fundamental need to understand, empathize, and support your employees by investing time and resources into creating a nonprofit environment that prioritizes inclusivity and encourages your team to succeed. 

Once you fully address and fulfill the needs of the people working within your organization, it will only have a positive impact on how your nonprofit can best meet the diverse set of needs of the constituents you serve.

More Diversity and Inclusion Resources:

  • Collecting Courage – A collection of stories from women of color in the nonprofit sector sharing their experiences of anti-black racism in the workplace.
  • Rooted In Rights – Provides detailed guidelines and tutorials on what you need to make your digital spaces accessible for all.
  • Nonprofit Learning Lab DEI Resources – A curated collection of workbooks, reading lists, articles, and podcasts for nonprofits to learn more about how to be more diverse, equitable, and inclusive.
  • Council of Nonprofit Management’s Equity Workshops – CNM has a year-long schedule of nonprofit inclusivity workshops available for nonprofit leaders to become better advocates and allies through an intersectional lens.

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