When someone says the words, “it’s time for a rebrand,” does your heart skip a beat? In this 3-part series , we will examine a community-centered, values-embodied approach to the rebrand process. Part 1 will explore how we begin by centering the...Read more.
The problem with committing to equity, is that you might actually have to do the work! “Allyship born of heroism- not altruism- will ultimately be performative and harmful.” ― Jamie Arpin-Ricci introduction Welcome to the Nonprofit Allyship Theater...Read more.
How to Embody IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity & Accessibility) Values in Your Rebrand & Rollout Part 1
When someone says the words, “it’s time for a rebrand,” does your heart skip a beat?
In this 3-part series, we will examine a community-centered, values-embodied approach to the rebrand process. Part 1 will explore how we begin by centering the needs, experiences and voices of those closest to the outcome of our work, inviting you to examine how perfection and urgency might show up for you and your team. Part 2 will invite you to dive deep into iteration and 'safe to fail' experimentation, using liberatory design process principles to 'imagine,' 'prototype' and 'try' new approaches to your communications strategies and materials. Finally, Part 3 will discuss ways to embody IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity & Accessibility) values in your brand rollout.
Part 1: Making the Case for Doing This Differently
Does just the idea of rebranding, changing your logo, messaging and the rest of your visual identity across your various print and media assets send a shiver up your spine as you think about the stakeholders you will need to include, and the opinions you will need to balance? The politics and fear that this process evokes can trouble even the most well-balanced, calm and intentional organization.
Re-envisioning your brand is a huge undertaking and though it should be taken seriously, it does not need to cause as much heartache nor as many headaches as it often does.
Instead, what if we imagined this as an iterative process that worked into your everyday workflow?
An interactive process invites:
stakeholders and constituents to be included
direct as well as anonymous feedback to be collected and iterated upon
everyone to feel like they are part of a cohesive and collaborative team experience
What if I were to tell you that this process does in fact exist; newly termed the Community Centered Rebrand. In the Community Centered Rebrand, the visual materials are designed, tested and retested in real time response to internal staff and community input. Your messaging is iterated upon as you go; and your logo redesign comes last.
Let’s take a step back and remember that marketing is an experiment—technologies are constantly changing, politics and funding are often in a state of flux, and internally there is always some amount of team turnover and institutional knowledge gained and lost. It is only our dominant culture (read white supremacy culture characteristics, in particular, perfectionism and sense of urgency) that tells us we need to get it perfect on the first try, or somehow ‘flip a switch’ and change everything at once.
We do not take for granted that this is serious business and could potentially change the trajectory of your organization, but taking a more iterative, community-centered, and thoughtful approach makes this process feel more collaborative, connecting, and trust-building rather than exclusionary, problematic, power dynamic focused, and, well, often soul crushing.
Iterating vs. Perfecting
The problem with the typical rebranding process is that everyone goes into it with the pressure of perfection looming over them. Many Executive Directors don’t even want to touch it with a 10-foot pole because of the stress that the mere idea evokes. The complicated feelings and power dynamics between board members and senior staff are often centralized in this process, But, what if we approached rebranding work through the lens of IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity & Accessibility) and used the liberatory design process as our guide?
An approach like this has the potentiality to bring people in your community closer together, galvanizing support for your mission and in turn “contributing to greater organizational capacity and social impact.” (Stanford Social innovation Review)
The idea behind the Community Centered Rebrand, prioritizes the needs of your internal stakeholders and those you are in service to by beginning by assessing where you are, what‘s working, what’s not, who comprises your audiences and stakeholders; and how you want them to feel about your organization at the end of this process.
The first step is to look at your communication assets and materials. Ask your staff what materials they need to be more successful in their work, what tools would make their lives easier, what assets community members need that they are not getting as easily as they could?
Begin by redesigning these materials first since they are actually the most impactful brand vehicles you have.
To begin this redesign process, we start by creating mood boards. Mood board development allows you to establish an updated visual language for your organization without addressing your logo, and is a great tool for community inclusion.
Mood boards are collages/collections of fonts, imagery, colors, photography treatments and other elements (that best represent your org) that you can share with community members for feedback. We often begin this process with a community town hall where we have group discussions around color theory, fonts, imagery, etc. feel most aligned with your organizational core values and how those can potentially be applied across various contexts. We will usually include initial mood boards or sketches at this time as well as a survey to gain anonymous insights & feedback from those who either can not attend or are not comfortable sharing their perspectives publicly.
Words for the Wise
In order to make this work feel accessible and inclusive please provide materials at least 24 hours hours ahead of time, translated into whatever languages are needed in your community and make sure you have interpreters for the event itself. If you are thinking, 'that is too much work' or ‘we can’t afford that,’ consider from the perspective of those in your community who are neurodivergent or non-English speaking, even if they seem fine with however you communicate regularly, they will probably appreciate the additional care you have taken.
When we create mood boards, we usually begin with 5 directions and iterate over 3 rounds till we land on one final direction. We then use the final version as the basis of our updated visual language. Mood boards are great because they can also act as a mini-style guide that you can build upon.
Now it is time to start updating collateral and other communications assets. In your anonymous survey you would have included a few questions about what assets people really use on a regular basis and what tools would help them do their jobs more effectively. That information will be what determines which materials to start redesigning first.
The board and senior staff may lean toward choosing your Theory of Change, Annual Report or Strategic Plan, because those are often what funders or external partners want to see, but this approach centers the needs of your internal staff and those you are in service to, first. So when or if you feel pressure to begin with one of the above assets, take a moment to consider those materials are useful to the rest of your staff. Depending on your answer, perhaps consider that a slide deck, brochure, one-sheet or flier template might be a more useful first choice?
In Part 2 of this series we will explore iteration and ‘safe to fail’ experimentation using liberatory design process principles to ‘imagine,’ ‘prototype’ and ‘try’ new approaches to the application of your new visual language across your branded materials.
The problem with committing to equity, is that you might actually have to do the work!
“Allyship born of heroism- not altruism- will ultimately be performative and harmful.” ― Jamie Arpin-Ricci
Welcome to the Nonprofit Allyship Theater!
Today's show includes:
A ‘this is how we’ve always done it’ work culture
Endless conversations sans actions
Microaggressions that go unchecked
Thoughts & Prayers
And of course, a great fundraising board
It’s not enough to make an effort, when you really want to make progress. We at rootid understand that the journey to equitable practice requires various tools and resources; thought partnership, a knowledgeable community of like-minded individuals, and strategic communication/messaging. As you reevaluate your commitments to equity; know that rootid is here to provide ideas on how to continue moving forward ….to progress.
2020 - the great awakening
March 13, 2020 started off like any other day… and then it became known as the day the world closed. 2020 was a tumultuous year to say the least. As a country, we witnessed a contentious election; systemic racism protests with people of all colors marching side by side; rainbow flags on full display; black squares; collective empathy, and promises of change. Finally, it was the America we always knew we could be. The America where liberty and justice was truly FOR ALL. Individuals were self-reflecting, and desired to change, what we knew then as ‘normal everyday life’.
At dinner tables, cubicles, and coffee bars, individuals engaged in conversations about humanity and the treatment of all of its citizens. For profit and nonprofit organizations were not immune to this wave and began to take a deeper look at their culture, values, and practices. As diversity and inclusion became the buzzwords of progress, DEI consultants began to see an uptick in requests for services inclusive of implicit bias training, cultural awareness and belonging.
All over, individuals were equipped with knowledge and provided with the tools and wording for how to show up for their marginalized peers. They were allowed to peek into the minds, trauma, and experiences of others in the hopes that they would not retraumatize and instead help. Certain members of the nonprofit community would proudly beat our chests believing that we are ahead of the game in regard to our commitment to equity - for we are the change we wish to see.
Our websites are awash with diverse faces. Our hiring practices were fair and balanced; our boards reflective of the communities we served (in both race and socioeconomic status). We brought in consultants to do a listening tour with the patrons of our organization; we are doing the work….but are we really?
“Choose your beliefs wisely, for they will become your reality.” ― Anthon St. Maarten 2021
the great stagnation
The nonprofit sector is one of the most vibrant and productive sectors. Often filling the gap left by tax cuts and reallocated funding. From out of school time programs to health and wellness initiatives; there are few who have not been touched by this sector and its workers - mobilized to do good work.
For all of its ‘good work’, certain members within the sector have perfected the art of talking about an issue without ever having to take action. Specifically, when it comes to equity and inclusion. Have things really changed or have we been fooled by the business of equity and inclusion?
What do I mean?
Think about the nonprofit where you currently serve; what’s it like? Think about your organization as a whole; the office culture, the staff, your values, org practices, the board, and volunteers. Are there still members of the team that remain silent during all-staff meetings?
Has the DEI committee made suggestions that have yet to be enacted; what’s the holdup? Are the values timely and reflective of the organization and the communities they serve? What kind of representation and inclusion do you have based on gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, and background/experience? (Rootid offers coaching and roundtable sessions to assist you with all of these areas).
Classic example: In the life of every nonprofit comms manager or development professional , you will have to create a campaign to raise awareness, supporters or capital. Know that as the designers of the message you have a big responsibility to respect the people you represent. What wording are you using when describing the demographics you serve? What stereotypes are your messages reinforcing? What style guide are you consulting?
These terms are often used to describe communities of color; at-risk, low-income; disadvantaged; under-served. Do these terms aptly describe the groups you are in service to - or are they the ‘go-to’ terms that make funders feel good about themselves? If your beliefs are inequitable - it's going to show up in your approach, your interactions, and definitely in your messaging.
The reason why many of the inclusive efforts have stalled is because mindsets have yet to change. All of the workshops and company observances will be performative if in your mind, non-white persons are still seen as ‘less than’ or beneath you. And if you don't believe this mindset still exists, let's revisit a recent event.
On a lovely spring day in May of 2020, a black man was birdwatching and minding his business (which is what often happens in cases like these); when a white woman was also walking through Central Park while talking on her phone—accompanied by her dog, who was not on a leash. Per the Central Park Conservancy,
“all dog owners should maintain at least six feet of distance from other people and animals and keep their dogs on a leash.”
What happened next is the heart of what I want you to pay attention to. The birdwatcher went to gently remind the dogwalker about the leash law and what ensued was nothing short of a tragedy. The dogwalker proceeded to yell at the man and threatened to call the police and let them know that she was being attacked by a Black man in the park while trying to walk her dog.
Thanks to the cell phone video, we were able to witness her outrage and see that she was in fact not being attacked, nor was he close enough to her to inflict bodily harm. Her outrage was not at being reminded about the law; it was the fact that an individual who she believed was beneath her, had the audacity to remind her of what was posted and known throughout the park.
Historical reference - In the United States, during the humble beginnings of slavery cerca 1619, black people were not citizens, but property to be bought, named, and sold. The culture of the time dictated under no circumstances could a black person assume an air of equality with a white person. Then when those well-meaning white creators of the law needed to gain more votes they made a provision in the Constitution called the 3/5th compromise. In essence, it stated that black people were not considered whole persons and the parts that mattered could be used for political gain (thus setting a trend for how black people would be used in the political system). So you see, for an black person to address a white person or give directives would be considered the most disrespectful act one could commit; punishable by beatings and/or death.
Fast forward to May 25th…... Are you seeing a pattern?
Amy Cooper, for all we know, could have just attended her company’s DEI workshop the Friday prior to the incident. She might have recently made a donation to a BIPOC-led organization in time for Giving Tuesday. But for all her good work - when confronted with a person who was unlike her in real life, the reality of her unchanged mind was on display for all the world to see.
Sadly, there are plenty of ‘Amy Coopers’ serving on boards and on the frontlines of many of our nonprofit organizations feeling good about themselves because they are achieving outcomes with a ‘we do good work for those people’ savior mentality - without really having to change their mind. (Though this is now a well-known example, it is all too common. White supremacy shows up in our culture in many forms. See Tema Okun article)
2022 - the year of your great follow through
‘follow through’ phrasal verb of follow
continue an action or task to its conclusion. "don't promise a reward and then not follow through"
In sports, it's the moment after the ball has been hit, encompassing form and power. In business, it's the phone/call email after an agreement has been reached to ensure all terms have been satisfied; and in leadership, its management executing on its plans. In every aspect of life, the ‘follow through’ is the most effective tool to ensure completion.
Which makes you think, if this principle is so easily understood everywhere else- why is it so difficult to understand when it comes to fighting for equity? If we truly want to shift mindsets there has to be an openness and a willingness to see that what you currently believe is skewed. A commitment to equity and inclusion must be an ongoing practice - ‘one and done’ just won't do.
ways rootid can help you get started in 2022
Sign up for a one-to- one consultation with rootid experts to design equity-centered brand & communications strategies for organizations
Register for rootid’s community roundtable and actively engage in hands-on activities and small group discussions with other nonprofit professionals, service providers and funders.
Add your name to our mailing list and stay in the know about upcoming events, resources and tools
If you start conversations about making sure everyone is included, you will have to revisit the conversations until EVERYONE IS INCLUDED. If you conduct an internal audit to see what you can do better, you actually have to use the data to make some improvements. If you conduct a listening tour with your audiences and you hear their experiences are more transactional than relational (rootid hosts various sessions to assist with this- SIGN UP HERE) you might actually have to change your perceptions and how you interact with your audience.
Building a diverse and inclusive team of individuals across an expansive set of demographic factors, expanding from race and gender (age, sexual orientation, gender, disability, education and/or experience, and geographic background) can help organizations to increase the likelihood of succeeding while avoiding many of the pitfalls that can come from a group of like-minded individuals engaging in a vacuum (or groupthink). Side Note - I have experienced this sort of foolishness before. I had a senior manager who only wanted to hire people who looked like she could go to yoga with them, for management positions...SMH.
As this new year begins - I am still wondering if all of the social justice allies we picked up in 2020 are still with us. And if they are - then now is not the time to be silent or weary. 2022 has the potential to become the year of the great follow through. It's time to let the curtain drop and turn the lights off on Allyship Theater.
It's time for those of us who do this good work to finish what we started.
"When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have to speak up. You have to say something; you have to do something." -John Lewis