Multicultural communications for nonprofits

December 6, 2012

By 2050, the racial and ethnic populations of the United States will surpass 50 percent, according to the U.S. Census.

Nonprofit organizations will be challenged to growing needs and demands for a diverse society. Taking a multicultural approach to communication will help your organization remain relevant. Cultural competency is central to changing behavior, inspiring action, and connecting with people.

In my book, “Inspire Good: Nonprofit Marketing for a Better World,” I outline the basic principles that form the Circle of Multicultural Communications, with culture at its center. These can help nonprofits improve relationships, build  dialogue, increase support and achieve participation.

1.  Understand.

Connect with stakeholders by understanding them. Expand your cultural lens. See the world through the eyes of your audience. Review demographic information, including consumer buying and media consumption habits, reading levels, educational backgrounds, health data, and lifestyle decisions. Search for similar needs, characteristics, and preferences. Know how ethnic and minority populations perceive and interact with your organization. Learn the history of the communities that you serve.

2. Connect

Based on your budget and reaching a specific audience, develop an outreach plan. Use research to craft strategies and messages that resonate. Test your messages for relevance. 

Connect with stakeholders in their everyday environment. Take your message to the streets and the communities that your organization serves. Engage community leaders and influencers to help get the word out. Hold an open house and sponsor community events inviting stakeholders to start a dialogue.

Think about media and the ways your audience receives information. Review the latest consumption habits for ethnic media that serve your audience. Identify effective communication channels that will best connect.

3. Trust.

Form a positive relationship with people by earning their trust. Be a good listener. Respect culture and tradition. Know the protocols and nuisances of working with diverse populations within their community.

Establish a track record of success by consistently delivering on your mission and promise. Communicate often and stay connected to the community. Invite participation and be responsive.

4. Grow.

Mutually rewarding relationships grow.  They get stronger over time and result in a win-win for everyone. Successful multicultural communications take commitment and resources. It’s not a one-time deal, but a learning curve that requires adjustments.

Nonprofits that proactively reach out to multicultural stakeholders will be better positioned to serve the needs of a diverse population in America.

Bill Weger, M.A.
Bill Weger, M.A., is senior partner of Image One PR. He has more than 25 years of experience in public relations and has received more than 55 national and international awards for marketing and communications excellence.


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