4 Best Practices for Creating an Inclusive Digital Strategy

4 Best Practices for Creating an Inclusive Digital Strategy

Digital inclusivity has increasingly become a priority for associations, nonprofits, and other membership-based organizations. 

Digital inclusivity means every aspect of your online strategy, from your website to your social media and email marketing campaigns, is accessible to all of your audience members. This also means reflecting their lived experiences, which are the knowledge and perspectives a person has gained throughout their lives that affect their choices and actions. 

As an association or membership-based organization, you’re likely already dedicated to creating an environment where all your members feel supported to reach their personal and professional goals. By including a diverse range of experiences and perspectives in your digital strategy, you can better engage current audience members and connect with new ones. 

To develop an inclusive digital strategy, your online content should be easily understandable and relatable to audience members. Let’s take a look at four best practices to craft an inclusive digital strategy: 

  1. Enhance your website’s accessibility.

  2. Consider your audience’s specific barriers to engagement.

  3. Use inclusive language and storytelling. 

  4. Ask your audience for feedback. 

The best websites, from nonprofit sites to association membership portals, take inclusivity into account to create a positive experience for all audience members. Let’s take a closer look at each best practice in more detail. 

1. Enhance your website’s accessibility.

Website accessibility means that all users, regardless of their age, ability, device, or location, can navigate and read your website without obstacles. Web accessibility is increasingly considered a legal standard, so establishing your accessibility strategy now will put you ahead of the curve and ensure compliance with relevant regulations. 

Follow these best practices to improve your website’s accessibility:  

  • Include alternative text for images and transcripts or closed captions for videos and podcasts. This ensures that visitors using screen readers can interpret your website’s visual content. 

  • Create a clear and hierarchical page structure using heading tags.

  • Ensure that all text has a sufficient color contrast compared to the background (the recommended ratio is at least 4.5:1 or 3:1 for large text). Strong contrasting colors make text easier to read. 

  • Craft your site to be mobile and tablet friendly to provide a positive browsing experience, no matter what device audience members use. According to statistics gathered by Nonprofits Source, one in four donors uses mobile devices to discover nonprofits they were previously unaware of. With mobile-friendly online content, you can ensure that you’re providing a positive experience for mobile users. 

  • Create an intuitive, simple navigation system with clear menu links. 

  • Ensure your website’s forms, such as your online waivers or event registration pages, are accessible. This means ensuring that your forms are easy for visitors with assistive technology to use and that they include clear form labels and proper color contrast. 

You can use a free tool such as Google Lighthouse to assess the accessibility of each of your site’s pages. Lighthouse will provide you with an accessibility score as well as tips for improving the accessibility of specific page elements. 

If your organization uses a powerful content management system like Drupal or Wordpress, you should also have access to various accessibility tools built into the platform. Drupal is even dedicated to creating an accessible back-end editing experience, meaning members of your digital team who use assistive technology will be able to edit with ease. 

You should also test your website manually to ensure you aren’t overlooking any accessibility issues. Try navigating your website with your keyboard or zooming into your screen by 200% and browsing your site to replicate the experience of using assistive technologies. 

If you need additional guidance to ensure that you’ve incorporated accessibility elements effectively and accurately, consider partnering with a web design agency. These professionals can help determine if your site is optimized for accessibility and recommend improvements. 

2. Consider your audience’s specific barriers to engagement.

Basic accessibility elements are important for any organization to include in its website and digital presence. But it’s equally necessary to consider your audience members’ unique situations when crafting your digital strategy. This way, you can develop experiences and programs that are accessible to everyone and applicable to their specific interests, needs, and goals. 

Consider the following scenarios and how you might respond to be more inclusive for your audience: 

  • Does your audience consist of many busy working professionals who may appreciate flexible opportunities to engage with your organization online? If so, you may want to offer microlearning professional development opportunities, allowing members to pick up new skills and knowledge at their own pace. 

  • Does your organization’s audience skew older, meaning many of your members may need more assistance accessing your virtual events? In this case, offer clear instructions on event day for how to register and access your opportunities.

  • Does your audience include many young professionals or college students who may be in a different economic situation than your older, more established members? If so, you might consider offering tiered membership levels or student discounts for your conferences and webinars. 

Think about how you can tailor your digital inclusion strategy to your audience and their unique characteristics. This ensures that you’re offering your members effective, relevant benefits and assistance. You’ll create a more positive experience for members and even contribute to a higher retention rate. 

3. Use inclusive language and storytelling. 

Inclusive language promotes egalitarianism by being sensitive to differences and respecting diversity and individuality. Ensure that the language and storytelling devices you use in your online content are respectful of all audience members and avoid any offensive or stereotypical terms or phrases. 

Here are a few ideas to ensure your digital content is inclusive and respectful of all people:

Avoid discriminatory language

Discriminatory language includes any words or phrases that devalue or disrespect different groups of people. For example, here are a few types of offensive language you should avoid: 

  • Ableist language: Ableist language includes any words or phrases that devalue or are offensive to people with disabilities. To ensure sensitivity when speaking or writing about people with disabilities, only mention a disability when it’s directly relevant to what you’re talking about. Be aware of which disability-related terms and phrases are no longer acceptable. For instance, you should say “person who uses a wheelchair” rather than “wheelchair-bound.”

  • Gendered language: Gendered language is any language that is sexist or incorporates gender stereotypes. Using gender-inclusive language in your digital content helps you avoid perpetuating outdated notions of gender. This includes using gender-neutral pronouns (such as “their” instead of “his and her” when applicable) and job titles (such as “flight attendant” instead of “stewardess”). Gender-inclusive language also extends to the themes and undertones you use in your digital content. For instance, be sure to not only use male pronouns when discussing those in positions of power, such as CEOs or political leaders. 

  • Racial undertones: The English language is rife with examples of words and phrases that have racist origins but are now commonplace in daily speech. For example, phrases such as “grandfathered in,” “gypped,” and “peanut gallery” all have roots in racism. It’s important to be aware of the potential negative connotations of your word choices and eliminate offensive language as necessary.

Your efforts to use more inclusive language should not just take place within your digital content strategy, but in all interactions you have with members, whether in-person or in virtual meetings or events. Also, ensure all other marketing and educational materials you use, from your printed brochures to your monthly email newsletters, incorporate these same principles of inclusive language. 

Use multimedia elements that resonate with your members

Ensure your digital content is representative of the wide variety of life experiences represented within your organization. Members should be able to see themselves reflected in all aspects of your association’s offerings, from your educational experiences to your events. 

For instance, if you’re creating an online course to help members learn a new skill, ensure any characters shown throughout the modules or lessons reflect the diversity of ages, abilities, ethnic backgrounds, and genders present in your membership base. Or, when you’re organizing a virtual conference or speaker series, invite speakers and panelists who are representative of the diversity present within your industry or field. 

Update your digital content strategy based on best practices

Stay flexible in your approach to your digital content and update your language or imagery as needed to ensure you’re continuously working to make all members feel like they belong in your organization. 

If you think you’d benefit from greater education on how to incorporate inclusivity into your digital strategy, review Kanopi’s guide to inclusive content strategies

4. Ask your audience for feedback. 

The best way to know if your digital strategy is sufficiently inclusive of all audience members is to ask. Consider incorporating questions about inclusivity and accessibility in your next member needs assessment. Doing so will allow you to hear directly from your members and gain insight into the changes they’d like to see. 

Ask questions like:

  • Do our website and social media pages accurately reflect the diverse life experiences of our members?

  • Do you feel like your unique identity is welcomed and celebrated within our organization? 

  • Would you recommend any changes to enhance the accessibility of our online content? 

  • Are there any barriers that prevent you from fully engaging with our online marketing content or virtual event opportunities? How can our organization lessen or eliminate those barriers? 

  • Does our eLearning content align with your individual needs and continuing education goals? How could we make our digital content more accessible and user-friendly?

Make your survey widely available by posting it on social media or directly emailing it to your members. This allows you to get a representative sample of your members that accurately reflects the needs of your entire audience, not just a select few.


Adopting an inclusive digital strategy enables your organization to do more than just celebrate the diversity of your member population. It allows you to take practical steps to meet members where they are and adjust your programs to suit their specific needs and preferences. When your members see themselves reflected in your organization’s digital content, they’ll feel welcomed in your community and comfortable taking advantage of the opportunities you have to offer.

About The Author


As Founder and CEO of Kanopi Studios, Anne helps create clarity around project needs, and turns client conversations into actionable outcomes. She enjoys helping clients identify their problems, and then empowering the Kanopi team to execute great solutions.

Anne is an advocate for open source and co-organizes the Bay Area Drupal Camp. When she’s not contributing to the community or running her thoughtful web agency, she enjoys yoga, meditation, treehouses, dharma, cycling, paddle boarding, kayaking, and hanging with her nephew.





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