Our Shared Sector: 7 Ways Your Nonprofit Can Make Virtual Meetings More Inclusive

By YW Boston

MNNMay2020OurSharedSectorYWBoston-min

In the midst of a crisis, continuing to foster an inclusive workplace is as important as ever. Nonprofits know that COVID-19 is impacting communities in different ways. As some organizations continue to work remotely, leaders and managers must ensure that they support staff of all identities. Here are some best practices for supporting staff and practicing inclusivity in a virtual landscape.

  1. Acknowledge and address the diverse challenges of working remotely and during a crisis.

Let people know you are aware that individuals’ experiences vary during this time. The ability to work remotely in a comfortable space is a privilege not everyone has. People may not have the technology for regular video conferencing. Living situations also vary by individual: many people live with roommates or are balancing work with caring for others. Give people advance notice if there is an expectation for them to participate via video, and send a follow-up email with action items.

  1. Explicitly incorporate an inclusion lens and remain mindful of bias.

Begin meetings with a focused statement that centers DE&I and your organization’s mission. Recognize that microaggressions can still occur virtually, and encourage people to reach out to you or to colleagues for support if they run into barriers to full participation. Setting a precedent of open communication around decision-making can also go a long way in empowering employees. Before announcing a policy change, emphasize that your organization is seeking solutions that do not cause disparate impact and that team members should weigh in with their feedback. Provide private ways for employees to submit feedback, in order to mitigate the risk of making anyone feel like their needs and concerns are being exposed.

  1. Offer micro-affirmations.

Managers can help counteract feelings of isolation among those they manage, especially employees who hold marginalized identities. Micro-affirmations include recognizing the achievements of others, taking a professional interest in staff, and asking for others’ opinions. These small gestures can often be overlooked during times of crisis.

  1. Leverage technology + structured participation to capture diverse viewpoints.

Without the ability to see body language, people with marginalized identities may find it even harder to jump into a discussion. Incorporate different participation strategies, such as a round-robin, that give everyone the opportunity to speak. Emphasize that you want to hear input from everyone. Use technology tools—such as chat rooms, polling, and other in-app nonverbal feedback functions—to get input on ideas.

  1. Delegate responsibilities.

Prioritizing inclusion can be more challenging when simultaneously managing technology. Consider holding meetings with a co-host. By sharing the work, you can focus on facilitating and noticing which individuals the team has not heard from.

  1. Take advantage of supervisory meetings.

Managers have opportunities to build their inclusive practices during 1-on-1 meetings. Ask open-ended questions to learn about specific concerns and listen for challenges related to employees’ physical workspace, feelings of isolation, or changes in mood and appearance. Work with each employee to ensure they have what they need to feel good about their work. As a manager, you can use these learnings to advocate for all staff members to ensure everyone receives necessary support. Your organization’s leadership should observe common themes in order to implement new policies and practices.

About YW Boston 

As the first YWCA in the nation, YW Boston has been at the forefront of advancing equity for over 150 years. Through our DE&I services—InclusionBoston and LeadBoston—as well as our advocacy work and youth programming, we help individuals and organizations change policies, practices, attitudes, and behaviors with a goal of creating more inclusive environments where women, people of color, and especially women of color can succeed.