EDI Is Its Own Story

Jeanne Tedrow, President & CEO, North Carolina Center for Nonprofits

To intentionally build an inclusive organization, there needs to be a culture of belonging, where differences are recognized and celebrated. “Belonging” was the theme of our 2021 Conference, where Jaki Shelton Green, NC Poet Laureate and our opening keynote, spoke about the power of our stories. She referenced the American author, Joan Didion, who once said, “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.”

Our stories hold us accountable for the work we do and enable us to reflect on what we are doing. So, what are the stories we tell ourselves and others about our organizations when we want to communicate our organization’s commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion? Why is this important?

Effective communication, specifically around EDI, is more than simply sharing information or creating a project about policies and practices. Effective communication about equity, diversity, and inclusion is an opportunity for personal and professional growth in our workplaces. It is an opportunity to grow and strengthen our organizations. Focusing on EDI in the nonprofit sector enables all of us to influence change at a systems level.

In her keynote, Ms. Shelton went on to say that stories give structure and meaning to our lives. The stories we tell ourselves play an influential role in who we are. This is important for us when we seek to communicate our work in and commitment to racial equity, diversity, and inclusion.

Are we sharing stories internally that help us impart empathy that will help influence changing behaviors? Are we telling stories in ways that validate the lived experiences of a diverse workforce? Do we create and hold space where all voices can speak their truth, express their feelings, and feel validated?

When we listen to varied perspectives and seek ways to affirm expressed feelings, we shift the organizational culture. When we invite opportunities to embed equity, diversity, and inclusion into our organizations, we are fulfilling our missions and strengthening our potential impacts.

At the Center we are exploring our own stories and how we are telling them to better understand who we are. We recognize that we have so much more to learn. This is ongoing work. We will continue to listen, learn, and lead so we can work towards intentionally building inclusive organizations and building communities that influence systems to help solve complex problems.


Explore resources for the path towards more inclusive nonprofit organizations.