Angelle FoutherReaching (and Engaging) Diverse Audiences

By: Angelle Fouther In: 2011 Fall Conference| Community Foundations| Diversity and Inclusion| Social Networking

19 Sep 2011

The emergence of online services such as eHarmony, Match.com, and okcupid.com have forever changed the way that couples meet. I have thankfully been off the dating scene for 20 years, but I’ve marveled at the evolution of this industry which, from the comfortable confines of cyberdom, has been credited with the culmination of hundreds of thousands of marriages over the past decade. Yet despite these successes you always hear stories about the duds-and studies have shown them to be quite commonplace. You know the ones. They start with an ad like this one:

“Single, 40-year-old male, 6′0″, professional, excellent shape,  >$100k / yr., great sense of humor, loves to cook gourmet cuisine, lavish a special person with gifts, and travel the world enjoying sunsets in exotic places. Seeking the same in a woman (21-30 years old). Has often been confused with Brad Pitt.”

Undoubtedly, a match is made online, but the face-to-face encounter often goes south. You know why. He’s a nice guy, but he’s really 50 years old and just about 5′7″, and exotic places tend to be a tad more local than imagined because tropical islands have too many mosquitoes for his taste.

I’ve found that the community foundation world has some of the most savvy and adept communications professionals around. Charged with communicating a multilayered matrix of offerings in mere sound bytes, we consistently meet the challenge to broaden the exposure of our organizations. Further, we all are becoming more aware of the shifting demographics across the nation. Reaching diverse audiences is now a key strategy for growth.

How can this possibly tie to online dating? Luckily it’s a really loose connection. There’s not a foundation out there that would purposely misrepresent its asset base in the annual report or claim to offer community grants or donor circles through programs that don’t exist.

But the most successful strategies for reaching multicultural and underserved communities go beyond including images of those you wish to attract in your literature, or hiring a specialist to increase diversity. A commitment to authentic and purposeful engagement on the part of the organization is key; otherwise, the face-to-face encounter often goes south.

The recent Commongood report, which chronicled the experience of more than 1,600 people of color in the nonprofit sector, found that more than one-third (35 percent) of those who indicated that they examine diversity during the hiring process reported having previously withdrawn candidacy or declined a job due to a perceived lack of diversity and inclusiveness.

For the past 10 years, The Denver Foundation has managed an inclusiveness project with the goals of helping area nonprofits become more inclusive of people of color. We also have engaged in an internal inclusiveness effort that has transformed many aspects of our organizational operations and the fabric and hue of our foundation. It is challenging yet rewarding work.

Join us today, 2:30-6 p.m. PT, along with others that have been on the journey-the Minnesota/St. Paul Community Foundation, the San Francisco Foundation, and the Chicago Community Trust-for “Reaching Multicultural Audiences: Beyond the Politically Correct,” as we share lessons learned and offer tools for engaging diverse audiences. No matter where your organization exists along the continuum, this session is for you.

Angelle C. Fouther is senior communications officer at The Denver Foundation.

2 Responses to Reaching (and Engaging) Diverse Audiences

Rebecca Arno

September 20th, 2011 at 10:42 am

Thanks for this great perspective, Angelle, and for your great session yesterday. If anyone wants to see the wikisite that contains notes and resources from the session, visit

http://www.reachingmulticulturalaudiences.wikispaces.com

And join the conversation!

Dan Puglisi

September 23rd, 2011 at 11:05 am

It was nice to meet you and your colleagues from Denver at the conference, and thanks for such a thoughtful session.

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