No matter the issue you are working on, or the policy goals you’re trying to advance, engaging with diverse audiences needs to be an integral part of your campaign.
Engaging with diverse audiences makes good sense; the most successful campaigns are often the ones that speak to and engage as many different people as possible. Priority populations—including people living in high-poverty, urban areas (particularly African-American and Latino), people living in high-poverty, rural areas, and people with disability —are particularly important to engage as partners and advocates. These populations disproportionately carry the burden of many chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
Below are some questions designed to make you think about who you are reaching out to and how. The following are thought-starters and not an exhaustive list:
- Who is on our team already?
- Look at your volunteer base, your advisors, and your staff.
- Does your team have people from different backgrounds and experiences?
- Do they represent the communities where you want to have the most impact—particularly if those communities are historically underserved? If not, where are the opportunities to do more?
- How are we recruiting and engaging? If your team is not as diverse as it could be, consider expanding the ways you recruit and engage volunteers.
- For instance, not everyone has access to the internet; if your campaign is based heavily online, you may be limiting who is able to join your efforts. Pen-and-paper recruitment and offline volunteer opportunities can help make sure more people are able to get involved.
- Consider attending community-wide events or activities where you can engage with people face-to-face.
- Contact local civic and community-based organizations and ask to share more about your efforts during their membership meetings.
- Where are we recruiting and engaging? When it comes to getting people involved, location is just as important as technique.
- Are you reaching out to local faith communities, civic organizations focused on people of color and Indigenous communities, civil rights groups, Historically Black Colleges and Universities/Hispanic-Serving Institutions/Tribal Institutions, Black Greek Letter Organizations, and the ethnic small business community?
- Many faith communities have separate services in different languages. Are you equipped to speak to these audiences in different languages?
- Are you getting face time? Try tabling at events that draw a diverse crowd or collaborating with the local ethnic Chamber of Commerce.
- What is the accessibility like where you are recruiting? Can people with disability get to the meetings via accessible public transportation or complete streets? Are the meeting sites accessible and compliant with ADA standards?
- Who are we talking to?
- Make sure you are working with non-mainstream news outlets in your area, as well as the commonly read outlets. There may be newspapers, radio stations, or television networks geared toward diverse communities, particularly non-English-speakers and people of color. Ethnic media coverage can both provide new and different angles to your campaign and encourage diverse audiences to get involved with your work.
- Is language a barrier to access?
- If there are non-English-speakers in your area, consider having your materials translated and easily accessible at events and online. If you are planning to host phone banks, engage multilingual volunteers. In addition, if you are planning to table at events where people are likely to speak another language, make sure the people staffing your booth speak those languages.
- All materials should be graded on accessibility and readability levels. Documents should be written at a 6th-grade comprehension level or lower
- Is our team being receptive and inclusive?
- Getting people to sign up or take action is one thing; fostering a welcoming, affirming, accessible environment is another. Listen to what your volunteers, advisors, and staff members say about your campaign, and strive for an environment where everyone has a seat at the table.
- Strive to create an environment where partners can take part in the decision-making process, and ensure their considerations are considered.
- Are we considering unique cultural perspectives?
- Every culture has its own nuanced way of thinking and talking about issues. Try to learn what these issues are ahead of time.
- Do not be afraid of what you do not know. Be open to learning, and allow your partners to help guide you in understanding these cultural perspectives and their lived experiences.
- What else can we do?
- Throughout your campaign, keep asking yourself the types of questions listed above. There are always opportunities to open your doors wider and expand your reach further.
- Inclusiveness should be an integral part of your campaign, from start to finish.
- Language, accessibility, and cultural barriers can prevent people from getting involved with your campaign.
- Think strategically where you are recruiting and engaging. It is important to go to the people and organizations you hope to engage rather than expecting that interested parties will always come to you.
- There are always opportunities to create a more inclusive, welcoming community.