Nonprofit Radio for April 5, 2021: Gender Inclusivity 101 & Ethical Representation In Your Communications

My Guests:

Jude Shimer: Gender Inclusivity 101
Our 21NTC coverage continues with a convo that started out talking about gender-inclusive data, and includes a lot of best practices around that. But it broadened into a primer on inclusivity generally. It’s 2021! It’s time to address your constituents as they’d like to be addressed. My guest is Jude Shimer from The Center for Popular Democracy.

 

Caliopy Glaros: Ethical Representation In Your Communications
Caliopy Glaros urges you to authentically represent your issues as well as preserve the dignity of those affected by them. She shares 5 actions to help you tell more ethical and equitable stories. She’s principal of Philanthropy Without Borders and this is also part of our 21NTC coverage.

 

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[00:02:21.54] spk_0:
Hello and welcome to tony-martignetti non profit radio big non profit ideas for the other 95%. I’m your aptly named host of your favorite abdominal podcast. Oh, I’m glad you’re with me. I’d be hit with Andrea Strand, Dallas Canton Insys If you infected me with the idea that you missed this week’s show you that cutting in the background. By the way, I’m having a little work done outside gender inclusivity. One. Oh one. Our 21 NTC coverage continues with a convo that started out talking about gender inclusive data and includes a lot of best practices around that. But it broadened to a primer on inclusivity. Generally, it’s 2021. It’s time to address your constituents as they like to be addressed. My guest is Jude Shimmer from the Center for Popular Democracy and Ethical Representation. In your communications Calliope Glaros urges you to authentically represent your issues as well as preserve the dignity of those affected by them. She shares five actions to help you tell more ethical and equitable stories. She’s principle of philanthropy without Borders, and this is also part of our 21 NTC coverage on tony. Stick to how are you doing? Plus podcast pleasantries. We’re sponsored by turn to communications, PR and content for nonprofits. Your story is their mission. Turn hyphen two dot c o. Here is gender inclusivity one Oh one. Welcome to tony-martignetti non profit radio coverage of 21 NTC. The 2021 nonprofit Technology Conference. We’re sponsored at 21 NTC by turn to communications. Turn hyphen. Two dot c o. My guest right now is Jude Shimmer. They are CRM manager at the Center for Popular Democracy. Jude, welcome to nonprofit radio.

[00:02:23.37] spk_2:
Hello. Thank you for having me.

[00:02:51.34] spk_0:
Absolutely. My pleasure. Your session is respect your donors with gender inclusive data and you’re claim I’m not sounding. I don’t, uh I don’t mean to sound skeptical of it. No, you say that we can improve relationships and and grow our base by being more cautious or using gender inclusive data practices better? Yes. So just as an overview, what are we not getting right?

[00:03:48.24] spk_2:
Sure. So this is a particular interest of mine because I’m trans and non binary, and, uh, I have a lot of experiences, especially filling in forms filling in donation forms for nonprofits where I started my session at NTC was an anecdote where I was trying to donate to an organization that I cared a lot about. And they had a salutation field on their donation form that was required, and it didn’t have any gender neutral option. Except for Dr um and I I never understand why any donation form would require that, Like, why it just It makes no sense to me. Uh, and I actually reached out to this organization and asked if they could update their form. Um, and at the time, I already was working for a company. Um, that, among other things, was a donation and online donation platform for nonprofits. And so I built a lot of donation forms. Um, and I

[00:03:58.30] spk_0:
knew what was possible. Yeah,

[00:04:17.34] spk_2:
exactly. You do not have to have a required salutation field. Yeah, it didn’t work. They they the person who who I emailed with actually was really sympathetic and seemed really eager to do it and then said that they tried and it broke their form and that therefore they couldn’t do it. And so I didn’t donate to the Oregon. They didn’t get my donation.

[00:04:22.32] spk_0:
Yeah, You could have offered a technical assistance Probably helped to fix their broken form. Alright,

[00:04:28.96] spk_2:
Yeah. Then it becomes a question of free labor.

[00:05:07.44] spk_0:
Yeah. No, you shouldn’t have to do that. Just by the way, you may hear a little banging in the background. I’m having some floor work done, so Oh, well, congrats or cutting, right? Thank you. And replacing carpet with, uh, L V P. This planking vinyl planking that looks doesn’t look like 19 sixties vinyl, so it’s a little noisy, but that’s that’s you might hear that in the background. Um, yeah. All right. So I mean, let’s start with the most basic, you know, Why would they need to require a salutation? I mean, I have a rationale for that. Or do you see a rationale that you don’t agree with? Probably. But yeah. Yeah.

[00:07:05.84] spk_2:
I’ve talked to a lot of nonprofits who either do require a salutation on their forms or wanted to require salutation on your forms again. The the clients that I was working out with the time and the platform that I was supporting, um, did not require salutation, and, uh and we had a policy against it. Um, and you didn’t even have to have salutation on the form, but we had clients who would request that it be required. And I talked to several about it, and it really came down to this myth that donors want to be addressed by their salutation all the time. Like universally, That’s just the thing that donors want. And therefore we need to ask for it, because if we don’t know their salutation, we’re not going to be able to to write it on their acknowledgement letter and they’re going to be upset and they’re going to feel disrespected and they won’t want to donate anymore. And I have never actually like. No one was able to actually give me some kind of evidence that this is true. Like no one told me a story of like, Oh, we had a donor and we forgot to use their salutation and they were really upset, and they wouldn’t donate any more like that. Does that ever actually happen? And if it does, mhm. That sounds like the donors problem. Like you know, there you can find other donors you have. You know, one odd one who insists on being referred to it not only insists on having their salutation used, but having it asked up up front and the idea that it should be required, like at least just making it optional gives people the opportunity to put it in if they want to be addressed by it. And then no one else has to, but required. Makes no sense to me.

[00:07:10.84] spk_0:
All right, so let’s broaden this and go. Go to what? You know, what is what What else is out there that we should be sensitive to besides salutation? You know what? Sure. What is gender data?

[00:09:01.54] spk_2:
Sure. So, um, there’s the actual gender field. Um, so, you know, male, female, Any other options, which there are actually many more. Um, And there also is, uh, pronoun, which and I also want to be clear, like salutation is not analogous to gender. And pronoun is not analogous to gender. So someone may identify as male, but use they them pronouns. Um, because pronoun usage is very personal. Um, but, uh, but all of these things relate to the concept of gender. So when I talk about gender data, I’m talking about all of the various fields that people associate with gender. So, um so yeah, there’s salutation, There’s pronoun, there’s the actual gender field. And then there’s also sex, which I address in my, um in my presentation as being totally irrelevant to this conversation. When we’re talking about donors donor data, there is no justification whatsoever to ask for or know the sex of your donor, meaning the sex they were assigned at birth. It’s a complete non issue, so you can just drop it off the list. Um, with gender itself, the gender field this one is this one is very interesting. So multiple times that I’ve seen forms that ask for gender because they want to, like put a T shirt in someone’s membership package and want to know whether to include a men’s or woman’s T shirt. But there is no explanation of that. They don’t ask for, like, T shirt style. They just ask for gender, male or female and

[00:09:15.74] spk_0:
but no size, right? So yeah, okay, so that that justification seems kind of thin. Yeah, exactly. Kind. That that’s a thin Yeah, yeah.

[00:10:08.34] spk_2:
Um, so that’s an example. And that’s one that I’ve seen on on donation, or at least membership forms. And then also, though there are other reasons why a nonprofit might want to ask for gender less. So because of, um, like, just a donation situation. But maybe because they’re accepting some kind of application or submission, maybe around their programming, Um, maybe they’re going to have an event, Uh, and they want to have performers or Panelists. And that actually is a really good justification for asking for gender to ensure equity. Um, to make sure that you don’t end up with, you know, an all male or all CIS gender panel. Or, you know, artists in your new works programming things like that. Um, And in that case, there are best practices for how to ask for gender. Um,

[00:10:51.74] spk_0:
okay, we’re gonna we’ll get to that. Yeah. Okay. Cool. Everyone to get ahead of it. You know, we’ve got to get the best practice. Yeah, I’m just trying to set the set the field For what? We’re what it is we’re talking about. Can I, uh This is maybe a little part. Well, that’s not so, but I want you to explain your your feelings around something when when someone doesn’t refer to you as they are them, but says he or she how does that feel? I’m not asking you to speak for the entire, you know, the entire community. Uh, but how does it feel to you when someone miss Miss Miss identifies you?

[00:11:05.74] spk_2:
That’s a great question for me. Personally, Um, it feels confusing. And it it feels like being called the wrong name repeatedly. Um, your

[00:11:07.16] spk_0:
analogy, because yeah, that feels Yeah, exactly. I thought you said Tom. You know, I’ve heard a few. Yeah,

[00:11:52.34] spk_2:
um, and so for me, I don’t have a particularly strong emotional reaction. It’s just incorrect. It’s just like, Oh, no, that’s that’s wrong. That doesn’t fit. Uh, that is my unique experience for other trans people. It can be really, really unpleasant and traumatic. Um, it also depends on how it’s done, because if someone does it by accident, you know, they slip up or they like I haven’t had an opportunity to tell them my pronoun, and they just assume that feels different from when someone has been told repeatedly. And they are persistently using the wrong pronoun. Um and, well,

[00:12:06.34] spk_0:
old repeatedly and consistently doing it wrong. Is that almost like harassment? Yeah. It is a legal definition of harassment harassing to you, Maybe in a non legal way. Whatever. Yeah, all right, All right. Thank you. All right. Thanks. Thanks for sure.

[00:13:15.94] spk_2:
And actually, there’s something I do want to add to that, which is that there are. There’s sort of a scale of, of disrespect or lack of respect for trans people as far as impact. And it’s different for different people. So for me, things like being called the wrong pronoun by someone who’s only just met me or being called ma’am by a server or or, you know, having to confront, like, a restrictive gender field on a form. These things really annoy me. But I also have significantly more traumatic experiences, like being yelled at to leave my gym locker room or having really unpleasant experiences at the O B G y n. And these may seem different, but for me, they are all part of the same kind of miasma, like like they all come together to create an experience. And so when when someone can help mitigate those things that seem smaller, like a form, form field, or like or like a brief Miss Jen during briefly using the wrong pronoun, it makes such a big difference. It really does. Um, and I think that’s important to talk about.

[00:13:54.74] spk_0:
Yeah. And I’m sorry that you you need to have the the small, like, sort of corrections because the the fronts, you know, shouldn’t be there. It sounds like you know, So it sounds like the small the the small incidents where it’s done properly mean a lot to you because there’s so many. There’s so many mis mis identifications out there. Yeah, exactly. But I’m sorry you have to suffer the fronts to

[00:13:56.42] spk_2:
Yeah, what it’s like here right now.

[00:15:07.24] spk_0:
Look, um, you know, so I’m 59 So I’m speaking to folks who are, you know, if if you’re not in your twenties or like early thirties, you know, you didn’t grow up with the pleasure of pronouns that we have now, uh, so, you know, at 59 I grew up, you know, obviously more traditional. Um, but it’s 2021. So, you know, if you want to be online, your forms have to adapt if you want to. You want to interact in society, you know? I mean, if you want to just talk to your family, then you don’t have to, I guess you don’t have to adapt. But if you’d like to go outside your family, assuming you don’t have any trans folks in your family, you know you might. But let’s assume you don’t you know, if you want to stay in solar for the rest of your life, then then you could live your little in your little bubble. But if you want to be part of functioning society in 2021 you know, at 59 years old, I’m here to tell you that you have to adapt. Things are different, you know, just like they were different from the forties to the sixties. Things are different from the knots to the 2022 20 twenties, so get on board. All right, all right, that’s all. So for my my, uh, age peers jump on, all right, it’s not so bad. It’s not. That’s not bad at all. You know, it’s just it’s

[00:15:11.13] spk_2:
good change,

[00:15:21.24] spk_0:
part of a national worldwide community. So be part of it, or stay in your little home and stay in your little zip code if you like. You know? All right, Um, and there’s probably trans folks in your zip code anyway. So you know you’re not there

[00:15:25.22] spk_2:
definitely are little zip code. Little bubble is not as safe

[00:15:37.64] spk_0:
as you might think. All right there, huh? My, uh, imploring my my my peers to come aboard. So All right. Um, well, since you mentioned best practices, you know, we’re gonna talk about when to collect and not to collect. We still got plenty of time. So but let’s let’s talk about some of the best practices about, you know, if you are going to collect it and I guess you could bleed into, you know, whether to collect or not, you know, what’s your advice?

[00:16:11.34] spk_2:
Sure. So if you are going to collect it again, I see two main justifications for collecting gender. Specifically one. You’re accepting submissions, and you want to ensure equity to you want to do some kind of survey. So maybe your survey, your surveying your donors or potential donors about all kinds of things. Maybe you’re surveying them about your programming and whatever else,

[00:16:15.20] spk_1:
and you also want to

[00:17:03.64] spk_2:
know about them demographically. That’s really, really fair. Um, and especially in certain nonprofit industries, um, in industries that are that are centered around uh, progressive movement or equity? Um, in the former case with with submissions. Um, uh, a pretty standard practice is to use, uh, values for female male, non binary Prefer not to say and not listed or prefer to self identify. Um, and, uh, that last one is really important because, um, people can identify all kinds of ways. It’s also becoming more and more of a recognized best practice not to use the term other there, Um, because it literally others people. But to say, you know, right, you know, self identified or not listed,

[00:17:14.54] spk_0:
Should you should you give folks if they’re choosing, uh um, not listed should you give them a chance to feel positive or

[00:17:43.34] spk_2:
absolutely, Yeah, that should always come with a right and sealed. Um, every every gender field should come with a right in field. And in fact, the absolute best practice for as far as I’m concerned for for ensuring equity and submission is to just make it right in field, like forget about the pick list values, but let people right and what they want where they where organizations will sometimes run into issues perceived or real with that is, if They have lots and lots and lots of submissions, and they want to be able to sort and filter things. Um, so that’s where the justification for for a pick list, um,

[00:18:06.74] spk_0:
can come in. Otherwise, it has to be some manual intervention, because somebody might do m R period, which is going to be different than m r, which is gonna be different than and And folks might spell something out that the the the the organization wants to abbreviate standard Lee. So all right,

[00:18:10.54] spk_2:
things like that. So that’s for submissions, for surveying,

[00:19:03.14] spk_0:
for really trying, okay, for, you know, in the pick list versus straight narrative. You know, uh, where where the pick list might be appropriate, like people, organizations getting thousands of submissions a month or something. You know, huge organizations where it’s gonna be burdensome to look at each one and put something in specific to that field for each one. But if you’re getting, you know, like 10, 10 or 15, or maybe even 100 donations a month or or submissions of whatever type nations donations, submissions, you know you can you can do that. You can You can do it right in the field. You know, in an hour somebody can go through 100 of them. I mean, it’s all right. So, you know, we’re not, uh, the Cleveland Clinic where we’re getting 10,000 relations or something. All right, so let’s, you know, the the, uh, be open minded there in terms of what you how you can accept the data. Okay. I’m sorry. Yeah, sure.

[00:21:36.34] spk_2:
So? So we’ve talked about submissions, and then they’re surveying. So in surveying, it’s really useful to get as comprehensive as you can Data on gender. And so there are a lot of gender fields that you can include on a survey field. And another reason why I point this out is that, um, people in general, if they’re trying to just get the thing done like they just want to donate, they just want to do their submission. Um, then, uh, then you don’t want to make your form. Actually, you know what? I’m going to modify that with donation forms. It’s definitely a best practice to make them as short as possible and to ask for and certainly to require as few fields as possible for submission forms. You can be a lot more flexible with that because the person really wants to submit their thing right. They’re probably going to be willing to go through a few pages of questions in order to get their thing Surveys. Also, people enter into a survey. You know they’ve opted into taking a survey you can reasonably take, you know, a few minutes of their time and give them some pretty comprehensive questions and give them some comprehensive options for for answers. So for gender fields there, um, it’s It’s an increasingly recommended practice to have a lot of different gender, uh, gender. Identify as gender terms that people can multi, multi select and then, as always, because you know why not? It’s really important to to and to include a right in field. Um, because you cannot always be certain that you are covering every term and also because language evolves. So, um, in addition to a write in field, there are a lot of terms that people use for their gender. So male female are sometimes associated with sex identification. But some people also may say that my gender is male or my gender is female. Man and woman certainly. Um, sis man. CIS woman The term cysts, which, for people who are unfamiliar, means not trans somebody who identifies as the same gender as as they were assigned at birth. Um, And, uh, so it’s CIS trans, uh, trans masculine transfeminine. There are a lot of terms that you can find with a really easy google. Um, and for all that, I don’t know how much I want to plug Facebook. Um, but so you know what I want, But, um, but there are a lot of organizations and a lot of companies that have gotten on board with offering a lot of different gender options, and you can pretty easily find comprehensive lists of gender, uh, terms and gender identities.

[00:21:56.54] spk_0:
And again, can’t you just simplify this by having it? Strictly narrative.

[00:22:00.34] spk_2:
You can. Um but then again, the analysis part comes in. All right, so

[00:22:06.82] spk_0:
yeah, manually. Yeah,

[00:22:08.21] spk_2:
exactly. So if

[00:22:09.41] spk_0:
you know how many I mean, are you getting it? Well, all right. If you’re getting 1000 1000 I could see Burdensome. Yeah.

[00:22:59.24] spk_2:
Yeah, exactly. So if you want, for example, to see, like within certain zip codes, what is the gender breakdown of our audience? or our base. Right? So, you know, in these areas where we’re doing certain kinds of work, we actually have a pretty significant trans population. Who is Who is paying attention? Who we have contact with, You know, over in this area, Um, there’s a significant population of CIS gender women who are really interested in our work. Um and so if you want to be able to kind of, um, do analyses like that, it is helpful to have predefined terms, But you do want to make sure that you have a lot of comprehensive ones. Okay.

[00:22:59.87] spk_0:
Okay. Anything else? Best practice wise,

[00:23:12.34] spk_2:
Um, pronoun fields. Or is this the place where we can get into pronoun films? Sure. Okay, great. So one kind of under, uh, well, in certain places under discussed, we’re

[00:23:18.59] spk_0:
seeing that structure that, like, I’m not going to allow a program discussion at this point. But we wait 2.5 minutes, Then we can talk about pronouns in in into the six minutes, but yeah, I hope I don’t come across that

[00:25:12.14] spk_2:
way. Um, but yeah, pronouns are really important. There are more important in a lot of situations than any of this other stuff. Um, because pronouns is how people are addressed. It’s as important as people’s names. So anywhere where you would want to know, you know you’re going to be addressing somebody by their name. You also want to know their pronoun. Um, and there are a variety of ways that you can create opportunities to learn people’s pronouns. So if it’s, uh, it’s having to do with an event, um, you can ask for pronouns on the on the event registration form if you’re going to have the ability to say, like in a world where we have in real life events again, if you’re if you’re going to make people badges or things like that, you can also ask it, like when people arrive at an event when they log on to a virtual event, Um, in platforms like Zoom and other video video conferencing platforms, people can add their pronouns in their name. You can request that they do it. You can model it by doing it yourself and, uh, and you also in live events settings can again offer things like badges. Um, it’s also really it’s also very possible, and sometimes people feel uncomfortable about this or don’t know how to do it, but to ask for people’s pronouns in real life just in a conversation. And I think that the easiest way to do that is to offer yours first. So to approach someone and say, Oh, hi. By the way, my pronouncer, they Then what are your pronounce? Um, And it models the behavior it makes it into, You know, this is the thing that we’re doing together rather than sort of like, um, what pronouns do you use, right. You know, these are my pronouns. What are your pronouns? Um and, uh, yeah. There are a lot of opportunities to do that in a group setting, doing a go around at the beginning and asking people to introduce themselves with their names and their pronouns. Um, these are all things that people can do.

[00:25:24.94] spk_0:
Okay? And it becomes no harder to remember than people’s names. So exactly just slip up on, you know, you might slip up on the names 20 people in a group. You’re not gonna remember all 20 names if there’s no badges. So how to pronounce you say Oh, sorry. I think, actually, I’m sorry. I thought it was her, you know, you know, whatever.

[00:25:41.34] spk_2:
And you and there are millions of names, there are millions of names and only a handful of, of of commonly is pronouns in each language. So you know what? You really can do it.

[00:25:53.21] spk_0:
Okay? Yes, yes, But if you make a mistake, right? I mean, it’s not Yeah, Don’t crucify yourself. Just Yeah, exactly.

[00:26:25.24] spk_2:
I actually recommend really short script for if people make a mistake. So if you make a mistake in front of the person you’re talking about, you can say, Oh, I’m sorry. Thank you for reminding me. And then you use their their correct pronoun going forward if it’s in. You know, if they’re not there and someone informs you, owe that person actually uses he him pronouns, you can say, Oh, thank you for letting me know. And you use he him pronouns going forward. Right? Um, you thank the person for letting you know they’ve gone out of their way to do it. They might be kind of sticking their neck out to point that out. It can be uncomfortable. So you thank them for doing it. If the person who you mis gendered is right there. You say I’m sorry. And then you move on. You don’t have to grovel. You don’t have to, you know, suddenly make them the center of attention. You don’t have to make yourself the center of attention. Just apologize. Thank them and move on.

[00:27:01.04] spk_0:
Very practical. This is becoming sort of a 10101 on. Uh, correct. Excuse me. Correct. Not only pronoun usage, but, you know, addressing the trans community. Yeah. Um, all right, we have we have a couple of minutes. What do you want to leave folks with wrap us up? Um,

[00:27:06.19] spk_2:
sure. Well, I have a I have an anecdote where I had, like, a uniquely pleasant experience. Um, you

[00:27:15.81] spk_0:
ended with a crummy. You started with a crummy experience, so and yeah, and upbeat. Excellent. Yeah,

[00:28:13.94] spk_2:
exactly. So I was I was talking to a canvasser who was helping me fill out a donation form on a tablet, and that person was actually filling out the form and asking me the questions. And they said, Oh, by the way, we have an optional salutation field and we have mix available MX, which is the gender neutral salutation. Would you would you like to enter a salutation? And no one had said anything like that to me before. Just, like asked, Would you like to and said, We have a gender neutral one available and it just it made my day. It was no effort whatsoever that organizations part. It took two seconds, and I transfer like transforming an experience from a negative one where they’re not going to get my donation into a positive one where they get my donation and I feel really, positively about that organization is no effort. There’s no reason not to do it.

[00:31:33.24] spk_0:
That’s perfect. Let’s let’s let’s leave it there. Great charmer CRM manager at the Center for Popular Democracy. Thank you very much, Jude. Thanks. Sure, Thank you. My pleasure. And thank you for being with tony-martignetti non profit radio coverage of 21 NTC. The 2021 nonprofit Technology conference were sponsored by Turn to Communications. Turn hyphen two dot c o. It’s time for a break turn to communications relationships turned to has them with places like the Chronicle of Philanthropy, CBS Market Watch, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times Turn to his clients get placements because of their relationships. So when there’s a reason for you to be in the news or you need to be in the news for your own reason, turn to can leverage these relationships on your behalf. You’re more likely to get coverage that way than you are, calling them up cold on your own. So use the relationships that turn to has to your benefit. Turn hyphen two dot c o. It’s time for Tony. Take two. How are you doing? A few folks got back to me, but I’m curious to see if there’s more. And I did hear from some insiders as well again the those, uh, those folks who get the weekly insider alerts telling who the guests are each week. So how are you Anything you want to share about your experience through the pandemic vaccines? You got one. Your family. Was there any sickness in your family? How’s it looking? Planning to go back to the office? Are you planning that yet? Is your office planning it? Are they planning without you? Do you know, maybe maybe they’re planning it without you and you don’t know. In that case, you won’t be able to bring that up to me. But if they’re planning, then you do know and you’re included. How’s the feeling? So I’m interested in how you are as we, uh, begin to see the end of this although fourth surge seems likely. Yeah, plus the pleasantries gotta go out. Right? The podcast. Pleasantries. I’m still enjoying sending these out to you. So I am grateful that you are with nonprofit radio, and I’m gratified that non profit radio is helping you in your work. That’s why I do the show. So pleasantries to you, all of our podcast listeners, each of you individually and then collectively as well. Pleasantries to you. That is Tony’s Take two. We’ve got Boo Koo, but loads more time for nonprofit radio. Here is ethical representation in your communications. Welcome to tony-martignetti non profit radio coverage of 21 NTC. The 2021 nonprofit Technology Conference. We’re sponsored at 21 NTC by turn to communications Turn hyphen two dot c o. With me now is calliope Glaros.

[00:31:35.94] spk_1:
She is principal

[00:31:39.94] spk_0:
at Philanthropy without Borders. Helio P Welcome.

[00:31:41.44] spk_1:
Thank you, Tony. I’m so excited to be here.

[00:32:07.94] spk_0:
It’s a pleasure. Pleasure to have you. I’m glad you’re part of 21 NTC and our coverage, your topic is from exploitation to empathy, ethical representation in fundraising, communications. This is a concern. What? What do you feel? Nonprofits are not getting quite right around authentically representing people and issues.

[00:32:50.84] spk_1:
Yeah, well, you know, this is a big topic right now, Tony, and there’s a lot of people who are talking about it, but I think my approach is a little bit different for me. It’s not about making cosmetic changes to the images, you know, just showing happy faces instead of sad faces. And it’s also not about sort of superficial changes to language like replacing some words over others. I really approach this topic from the lens that what happens behind the scenes in your storytelling process is just as important as what the audience sees. And so this isn’t about making tweaks to the final narrative. It’s really about working in collaboration with your story contributors to truly understand how they want their stories told. So it’s very much about process, not product

[00:33:00.34] spk_0:
process. Okay, so we could have better processes back end to alleviate appearance problems and and messaging problems that are that are going, going public,

[00:33:41.14] spk_1:
right? I think it’s a fundamental mindset shift. And so, you know, we know that our industry has this issue with representation. We know that a lot of people who work in fundraising and marketing departments have never personally experienced hunger or housing instability or displacement or war. But they’re telling stories about people who have. And so, you know, some of the sort of, I guess, like common sense out there is to think about How would I want my story told, Um, but I don’t really represent some of the people that I’m necessarily writing about. And so it’s this fundamental shift from, you know, not really centering ourselves and our own lived experience, uh, in the stories that we’re telling and really turning towards towards our contributors and looking for guidance from them in how we tell their stories.

[00:33:54.31] spk_0:
Okay, and by contributors you’re thinking of of who?

[00:34:30.44] spk_1:
The actual people that are interviewed by the nonprofit whose stories you’re sharing. If you’re writing about specific people or also the people who are just in your programs, maybe you don’t tell stories about a particular individual or you use like a non identifying case example, Um, but who are the people who are being impacted by your work, who are actually, um, you know, impacted by your mission, going to them and working in collaboration with them and really using their insight to guide how you make decisions, what kinds of stories you’re telling, how you’re talking about the issue, because they’re the ones who are actually experiencing it.

[00:34:33.94] spk_0:
So is it about the questions that you ask them to elicit their story?

[00:34:40.44] spk_1:
That’s a big part. That’s a big part of

[00:34:42.25] spk_0:
it. The communication with the folks that are contributing,

[00:35:01.04] spk_1:
right? So I think the very first thing that an organization has to do is to get feedback about their communications from the people in their programs. And so it’s not just not just interviewing them to get their stories, but actually going back and showing some of the communications that you’ve released and saying, What do you think about this? How satisfied are you with your portrayal? What would you like to see? Right. So even more open ended questions? Not just about, you know. Did you like this? You know. How did you feel it? You know it represented you, but What else would you like to see from us? Right, So get it. So they get feedback is the first step. But also, you know, if you really want to make an impact on your storytelling process, you have to almost create, like I call it a feedback channel. It’s not just about going in once and getting some feedback and, you know, putting it in a little report, and then it sits there. But but having a continuous process of working in collaboration with your contributors. So every time you’re getting stories, you’re also getting feedback, and you can continue to refine your stories in an ongoing way. That’s really the first step.

[00:36:21.33] spk_0:
Okay, Okay. So getting feedback from about the portrayals from the folks who are being portrayed Yes. Okay, interesting. So So that means including those folks on your in your communications. If you’re If you want to make this a regular process, you’re saying not just going one time, but regular have a regular feedback mechanism. So start bringing, adding folks who are the beneficiaries of your work to your e newsletter, for instance.

[00:38:05.42] spk_1:
I think that ultimately, you know, every organization should look at increasing you know, in long term increasing the representation of staff that they have who are responsible for communications. Those folks should, you know, be from those communities and should share some lived experiences and identities with the people who are impacted by that program. I think that’s the long term strategy. I know that you know it’s not going to change overnight. And so I think in the interim, it’s really about both the mindset shift and also creating some different processes. So I’ll give you some more concrete examples, tony. So get feedback. But also, um, a big mistake that a lot of non profits make is they view this concept of consent, right? You know, and we have this in journalism to write, you know, getting consent to tell someone’s story. They view this concept as a form, you know, it’s a one page form that somebody signs that says, I give permission for you to, you know, share my stories and my images, you know, in all of your platforms. And then and then it’s done and you know, that’s that’s not really I think, the most effective process that we could have. We need to view consent a bit more holistically. So for instance, um, you know, I do. How how are we getting people? How are we getting the stories to come to us? Right. And so instead of necessarily going up to someone you know in the program and saying, Hey, can we interview you or, you know, hey, can we have you speak at our next event? You know, how are we allowing people to opt in, if that’s possible, depending on the structure of your organization and your work? So are we allowing our story contributors to sort of self select into the process to sort of raise their hands, so to speak and say, Hey, I would like to be interviewed actually instead of us, um, asking them because you know, there’s power dynamics and sometimes people might feel like saying yes, when they really when you know, when they really don’t want to do something. But because you asked, they feel you know that they have to

[00:38:09.80] spk_0:
say Okay, so make it You’re suggesting Make it more an open question to to the group at large.

[00:38:16.45] spk_1:
Yeah, if it’s possible

[00:38:22.62] spk_0:
and let them and ask. You’re saying you know and then asking for volunteers to instead of going individually to a family or or or a person and saying, Can we tell your story?

[00:39:07.62] spk_1:
Right? Right. Let them volunteer. Let themselves select the option available. Another way consent can show up is even in. So the way stories work is you have an acquisition process where you go out and get the story. You’re actually interviewing people. You’re taking their photos and then on the back end inside a nonprofit, the stories go through this kind of interpretation process, right? You have, you know, the recorded interview or the notes you’ve taken. You’ve got all of these photos, and now you have to put that content into a newsletter or put it into a campaign, right? How are we involving our story contributors in that process? Are we letting them look at their story once we’ve edited it and put it into the campaign or the newsletter? Are we showing it to them and letting them make edits before we send it out before it goes live? Are we going back to them and saying Hey, here’s what. Here’s what we ended up writing. Here’s what we’re going to post What do you think? Are there any changes you’d like to make? How does this look to you? So are we involving them in that editing process?

[00:39:24.52] spk_0:
Is that is that not common? You think it’s not common, You know it. I would have thought the same process that folks used with their donors when they’re doing a donor. So I do fundraising. So I’m more on the donor side that I’m not on the beneficiary side, but with donor. When when fundraisers are doing donor testimonials, there’s lots of back and forth. You know, the same, you know.

[00:41:04.41] spk_1:
No, it isn’t. And you know you really hit on. I think a fundamental issue in this industry is that the way I define exploitation of my talk is that it means that we’re treating some groups better than others. And in the nonprofit space, we definitely treat our donors better than we treat our story contributors or a program participants. And so even if we think about this notion of consent, the way consent looks with donors is totally different than story contributors. So as I was saying, you know, many organizations have this kind of one page media consent form, and there are There are forms that actually say your consent is irrevocable. Once you sign this, we can use your image and story however we’d like and you can’t do anything about it. But that’s not how we treat our donors, right? You know, if our donors sign up for a newsletter and then they decide to opt out later, they can opt out at any time. You know, if they decide, you know, maybe they don’t mark. Their gift is anonymous. And so, you know, we we kind of release things. And then they say, Oh, actually, I don’t want that kind of recognition. Please, you know, um, don’t don’t add me to your annual report. Please make an anonymous. You know, we let our donors kind of opt in and opt out, and and we give them all kinds of controls and consent. But with our story contributors Nope. Your consent is irrevocable. You know, that’s what I really want to change, right? And I think that’s the last part of thinking about consent as a process. There’s opting in, you know, if possible in the story acquisition process, there’s involving them in the interpretation, like you said, with donors having back and forth and then at the end, you know, if years go by and we’re still using their face, you know, on the on the as the hero image on our website. And they say, you know, I don’t want to be on your website anymore. Why on earth can’t we take that image down, right? Why does someone’s consent have to be irrevocable? So you’ve really nailed it, tony. The way that we engage our donors and the control that we give our donors has not been the way that we’ve treated our program participants in our story. Contributors.

[00:42:06.70] spk_0:
Yeah. All right. Interesting. Uh, as I said, I’m only aware of the way it works on the donor side, and I would have thought that it was equivalent on the beneficiary providing side. All right. All right. Um, what else? What else you want to talk about? Not that we’re not. We’re not near the end, but I feel like, you know, you’ve been studying this and thinking about it for years, and I’m coming to it after just I mean, I’ve had another conversation with Amy Sample worried about specifically about poverty porn and avoiding avoiding that. Um, but that was more about images and your, You know, of course. You know, we’re talking more about process. So you think about this more than I do. Basically, what I’m trying to say. So what? What what more? What do you want us to know,

[00:45:01.09] spk_1:
Right, So there’s, I think, a couple a couple main points, Um, in the title of my talk, it goes from from exploitation to empathy. And so I view empathy as being on the other end of the spectrum of exploitation. But I think that this word is misunderstood in our industry. We hear it all the time. And, um, I think it’s misunderstood. And so I spend a little time talking about what empathy actually is. I think a lot of people think that when you have empathy with another person, it means that you are feeling exactly what they’re feeling. But then my question is, how do you know what someone else is feeling right? And what if you have very different lived experiences? I’m sure, um, you and many of our listeners you can think of a time where you’re sharing an experience with someone and they responded with like, Oh, I know exactly how you feel, You know, when this happened to me and then they describe something that was not at all what you experienced and you’re going like No, no, that’s that’s not it at all. Um, you know, or they blow it out of proportion and think like, Oh, that’s happening to you. Oh, I’m so sorry. Oh, you must be devastated and you’re going. No, no, I’m not right people, you know. Are they projecting how they would feel if they experience what you experience? It’s not what you would feel. And so the way that I approach empathy, you know, in this topic and how it’s related to storytelling actually comes from the work of sociologist Milton Bennett, who distinguished between a sympathy and empathy by saying that sympathy assumes similarity when we’re embodying sympathy were practicing the golden rule. We’re treating other people the way we want to be treated, because we assume that they are similar to us, and in empathy. We treat other people the way they want to be treated because we assume they’re different from us. And as I was saying earlier, we really need to be assuming difference instead of similarity, because the lived experiences and the identities of the people who are responsible for telling the stories, fundraising and marketing staff in the nonprofit, um, are oftentimes very different from the lived experiences of the people that they’re telling stories about. Um And so you know, there’s advice out there that I refute, which is, you know, thinking about how would I want my story told, How would I feel if this story was about me and, um moving that that’s really more embodying sympathy and so moving from sympathy to empathy requires that we ask better questions? Um, those questions could look like, you know, how would I feel if I was telling the story and the person that it’s about was sitting right next to me? Or, you know, if I was talking to a donor about this story, and, you know, one of our clients walked into the room suddenly, is there anything about the story that I would change right? Do I tell, Do I tell stories differently to donors? Then then you know, when a client is present versus when they’re not, um, in those hypothetical situations were still. We’re still us. We’re not projecting our experience on to someone else. And so those are the better questions that we could ask. And that’s, you know, there are so many ways that I think in the nonprofit sector and in storytelling, we embody these sympathetic responses and we assume similarity. And we assume that our experience is universal and we’re some kind of a baseline. And really, um, it’s not the case. So I think that’s one main point

[00:45:22.39] spk_0:
that’s almost from like we could say, from from narcissism to empathy,

[00:45:24.88] spk_1:
right, Right

[00:45:41.19] spk_0:
way I experienced something. Must be the way you experienced it or or the way I feel about what you’re describing, because I’ve never experienced it personally the way I feel about what your what Your what your situation is, must be the way you are feeling about it exactly, because because I’m the center of the universe. So naturally, my feelings are the same as your yours would be the same as mine, you know?

[00:46:25.18] spk_1:
Yeah, it’s projection, and I think it’s at the pitfall. It’s you know, we all have, like, interpersonal examples of conversations we’ve had, and the reason I bring it up and that I go to the trouble of defining it is because I think that that basic perception, um, is what is it the pitfall of all of the mistakes that we make, um, in mass communications and in the way that we represent other people. Um, you know, it’s kind of using ourselves as a baseline and not really thinking about sort of the differences in our lived experience. Um, so that’s so that’s one

[00:46:30.88] spk_0:
thing. Uh, yeah. Distinguishing between exploitation and sympathy and

[00:46:33.01] spk_1:
empathy, Empathy,

[00:46:41.68] spk_0:
um and, well, your point know about gauging asking feedback. I mean, just how does this story look to you?

[00:48:25.37] spk_1:
Right. You know, we don’t know how other people want to be treated unless they tell us. And that’s the thing. If we’re just guessing, just guessing it’s still a projection. Um, you know, and I think the other thing that was really important in my session is I think the way that people think about ethical storytelling and moving beyond this kind of narrow scope. And so I think originally our concept of ethical storytelling was informed by journalism, which is really looking at a policy of do no harm so it’s make sure you get consent. Make sure that you’re not traumatizing the story contributor. Respect people’s privacy and boundaries, you know when you’re interviewing them. But in nonprofit fundraising, storytelling, this kind of do no harm is really our baseline. You know, that’s the least we could be doing an ethical storytelling. I think, to go up another level, we need to be adding value. We need to be providing value to the story contributor. And that doesn’t necessarily just mean, um, you know, paying them a monetary stipend. That is a good process for some organizations. It works for some, but not all. Um, but how are we making this an enriching experience? How are we making? Giving them a platform to to share their story and experience in a way that, um, that feels positive and makes them want to do it again? That it was a good experience for them. Right. So how are we providing value? Um, and then, really, the layer above that I think what we ultimately need to be aiming for an ethical storytelling is changing the beliefs and behaviors of our audience. And so we know that there are massive inequities in the world. And those inequities are influencing our work there, influencing our program participants. And you know, these are large, systemic issues, but they’re maintained and held into place by certain beliefs and behaviors. And how are our story’s changing those beliefs and behaviors? How are we pushing back against unhelpful narratives that say it’s okay to treat some people better than others? That’s what we really need to be aiming for.

[00:48:56.87] spk_0:
What’s your opinion of giving folks the option to just tell their own story? Maybe, you know, turn the camera on themselves and just tell their story as they as as they want to. Yeah, I think it’s in their own words.

[00:49:00.14] spk_1:
I would think that would be

[00:49:01.16] spk_0:
valuable.

[00:49:34.97] spk_1:
I think that the closer that we can get to honoring that sort of authenticity, um, and the autonomy of our story contributors. So yeah, letting, letting them speak in their in their own words, tell their story in their own manner. The closer we can get to that the better. Um, I also know that you can’t fit everything into a tweet, and you can’t fit everything onto a one or two page campaign letter and so I know, uh, forms and opportunities that are are great just for really authentic sharing. And then there’s some that we do have to, um, you know, interpret for our audience. So,

[00:50:10.86] spk_0:
yeah, I mean, it could be the It could be the person’s personal narrative with, you know, with context, right? Exactly. Exactly. Right. I mean, there is a purpose behind these two. We are trying to We we are using these stories to raise money. So I mean, they have you know, we’re not just trying to create an archive. Uh, we’re not creating writing a documentary where this is market driven, market driven content, but the person could use their own words. And then and we fill in with lots of context.

[00:50:36.36] spk_1:
Yeah, I think that was some advice that I gave in my talk as well is really trying to stay. Give the story contributor autonomy as much as you can, and let them use their own words and let them, you know, tell the story the way that they want. And of course, you know, there are shifts that we you know, there are different things that we could do in our interview process. is there are shifts that we can make into the kinds of questions that we ask. Um, but it really should be about giving more autonomy, uh, to the story contributor and honoring their authenticity.

[00:50:44.56] spk_0:
Your session description mentions five actions to tell more ethical and equitable stories. Are those things we can talk about in five minutes?

[00:55:08.44] spk_1:
They sure can. And so I think one of them we already touched on, which was to create or fix your feedback channel right to make sure you’re getting feedback. And if you’re already getting feedback, make sure that it’s done in a consistent way. Um, and that in specific. And I would also say to the listeners, You know, consider having kind of like a control and a test group. And so you know there’s power dynamics at play, right? And when we go to some of the people in our programs and ask for feedback because they’re receiving services from our organizations, those people may be inclined to tell us what we want to hear. Um, and so I get a lot of questions about addressing power dynamics, and there’s there’s not necessarily a lot we can do about about those dynamics. But I would also not just ask people who are, you know, in your programs who are receiving services from your organization, but also ask people either within the community or people who embody some of the identities or lived experiences of those people. But they’re not getting services and and see what they think about your communications. Um, if everyone in your programs are saying, Oh, these look great, you know, great job. And then other members of the community are going No, these are so stereotypical, you know, these are you know, there’s a really this isn’t representative, right? That’s some interesting data. And so don’t just ask people in your programs. But as people outside of your programs, Um, I think, yeah, feedback. And you know, 0.2 is view consent as a process, not just a form. Right. First, take a look at your form and make sure you’re not saying you know that that their consent is irrevocable because it really isn’t. Um, you know, look at ways that you can incorporate consent into your entire process from the moment you’re getting the story, the editing and interpreting it’s going through, and then even long after it’s used. You know, can someone ask for things to be taken down? Um, I think you know, Number three gets at that last point that I made around ethical storytelling, you know, sort of beyond the baseline, Really changing beliefs and behaviors. Um, I really encourage everyone to push back against harmful or unhelpful narratives. And so what are the assumptions that exist about the people in our programs? Um, about their situations. Are those assumptions really? Are they helping us move our work forward or not? And if they’re not, then how are we pushing back? Um, think about the stories that we’re not telling, right. We’ve got all the stories we’re telling, but what are what are the stories we’re not telling? Um, you know, how are our stories shaping the expectations for both our donors in terms of what is required for change? Um, you know what does what does impact look like? What does change look like often our work. You know, change doesn’t happen overnight, But if we’re saying that to our donors, you know you’re going to transform someone’s life, you know, in a day, you know, that’s not really That’s not really reasonable expectation. Um, you know, and also, you know, our clients and story contributors see themselves in these stories were not hiding them from them. And so what kind of expectation are we setting for them? Right. So pushing back against a harmful, unhelpful narratives, harmful and unhelpful narratives and then really like looking at every communication and saying, Is this message reinforcing those narratives or is it challenging them? The fourth piece of advice they gave, um, was being the microphone and not the voice. It’s kind of a proverbial It’s a metaphor. And so you know, you you see these communications, tony. Like where the voice for the Children were, the voice for the poor, you know, and all of these people have voices. They have. They have a way of expressing themselves, and so you’re not really speaking on their behalf, but you are providing them a platform and amplifying their message. And so being a platform being a microphone and not a voice means that you have to as a as a storyteller, as someone in your organization, um, tasked with that, you have to analyze your own perspective. You have to be thinking about what’s influencing my perspective on this. Right? Um, you have to be. You know, when you start making generalizations about a group you have to be looking at, like, how do I know that? How do I know? You know, what I’m saying is real. Where’s my evidence? What am I basing this off of, Right. So understanding. You know what kind of a microphone you are? Right? And, you know, then your final one, we have the final one. That’s right. You know, we need to stay committed to changing beliefs and behaviors because it’s not going to happen overnight. But we’re playing the long game, and that’s really what we ultimately need to be striving. Oh, okay.

[00:55:12.84] spk_0:
Okay. You cut out a little bit there, but changing changing behaviors.

[00:55:16.72] spk_1:
We need to stay committed to changing beliefs and behaviors,

[00:55:25.14] spk_0:
beliefs and behaviors. Thank you. All right, All right. That’s a lot. But that was good. Calliope. Terrific. Thank

[00:55:25.76] spk_1:
you. Thank you so much. Tony,

[00:56:39.54] spk_0:
Your opening eyes. You’re raising consciousness about potential exploitation and helping us avoid it in our in our processes. Thank you. Kelly O P. Glaros principal at Philanthropy Without Borders. Yeah. Thank you very much again. Thank you. And thanks to you for being with tony-martignetti non profit radio coverage of 21 NTC where were sponsored by turn to communications, turn hyphen two dot c o Next week Fund volunteer activities as 21 NTC coverage continues. If you missed any part of this week’s show, I beseech you find it at tony-martignetti dot com. We’re sponsored by turn to communications, PR and content for nonprofits. Your story is their mission. Turn hyphen two dot c o. Our creative producer is Claire Meyerhoff. The show’s social media is by Susan Chavez. Mark Silverman is our Web guy, and this music is by Scott Stein. Thank you for that affirmation. Scotty. Be with me next week for nonprofit radio. Big non profit ideas for the other 95% go out and be great

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