Nonprofits and foundations make a difference not just through what they do. They also make a difference with what they say. Is your organization using its credibility on behalf of your community? Here’s how one national nonprofit stepped up to advocate for—not just serve—its families.
Context and opportunity
When Family Equality Council came to LightBox Collaborative for communication guidance it was poised to jump to a new level of work on behalf of families. The organization was approaching its 30th anniversary, emerging as a national organization after a history dotted with name changes and periods of rapid growth. Its programs were rock-solid; they had built a strong constituency by providing connections, information, and resources for families. Well-attended events allowed families with moms and dads who are gay to network, share, and learn from each other, just like any gathering of parents. On the strength of these programs, they were ready to accomplish more.
Effective communication rests on alignment of words, deeds, and intentions. LightBox Collaborative looks at this as a pyramid. The Family Equality Council was doing a lot of things right. They have a strong foundation of BEing, and were DOing great work. The challenge was finding ways to SAY all of that in a consistent and unified way.
We focused on creating overarching, foundational messages that keep the spotlight on results and not just the day-to-day work. It is clear that Family Equality Council’s sizeable constituency, solid programs, and long standing in the community earns the organization a great deal of credibility. This gives them the opportunity to step up and be an effective advocate for social change—not just for parents who are gay and their children, but as a voice for all families, no matter who is part of the family. They recognize they can use their strong voice to influence policy and culture. We worked with them to create messages that would resonate in the public square.
Steve Majors, director of communications for Family Equality Council, calls the work with LightBox Collaborative “transformative.” “We now have functional, aspirational, and relevant messaging about our work and the impact of our work. We have been able to infuse that into all of our communications to every possible stakeholder you can imagine—board, staff, media, public education campaigns, and partners in the movement. For the first time in our history, we speak clearly and concisely about why we matter and what we do.”
By taking a stand and speaking up, Family Equality Council and its families have advocated for and won state and federal policy changes in the areas of foster care and adoption, relationship recognition, safer schools, health care, employment, housing, and immigration.
What about your nonprofit or philanthropic organization? Talking about the difference you make in the world can help create lasting change for the people that your programs serve. Like Family Equality Council, is your organization ready to take a stand and speak up?
Cynthia Scheiderer is a LightBox collaborator who for years has worked with people in and from foster care and adoption, and also with people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender—which makes Family Equality Council one of her favorite organizations ever. Cross posted at LightBox Collaborative.