Fostering Inclusion on a Shoestring Budget

Diversity is a fact: just look around you on the street, in a store or at work. Our overall population is becoming more diverse in every way. Acceptance of our diverse reality is the first step toward creating a productive, inclusive workplace.


Inclusion is an act: tracking numbers or hiring diverse job candidates does not ensure inclusion. Diversity simply exists; inclusion must be created. It takes deliberate actions to embed inclusion into an organization’s management practices and culture, since culture is “how we do things around here.” In organizations where all employees at all levels feel heard and supported to do their best, there is inclusion. Inclusion costs very little.


As Chief Talent Officer at United Way of Central Indiana, it is my job to develop a diversity and inclusion (D&I) strategy to attract diverse job candidates who will enable us to reflect the communities we serve, and to ensure that diversity and inclusion are woven into every practice and become part of the culture itself. As you might expect, I read widely on the subject, attend D&I presentations given by professional organizations, search out diversity plans that successfully inclusive companies post, and more.


As a leader in a nonprofit organization, I must spend my budget dollars wisely, so I am constantly on the lookout for effective ways to not only educate our team members on the constantly changing population in Central Indiana, but to provide as many ways possible for new and long-term team members to get to know and appreciate one another.


Exclusion is visible and strongly felt. I want our team members to feel welcomed and valued every day. We all divide our world into those worthy of our gaze, smile, “hello,” questions, help, kindness, time and even love. We feel excluded when someone chooses not to give us any one of those things. We notice it every time we are excluded.


Inclusion begets a sense of belonging. Inclusion is “and” instead of “or,” and it is “yes” instead of “no.”


Here are some ways to include others that do not require a big budget.


  1. Shake hands with everyone in a group.
  2. Smile, give eye contact and say “Hello!” when passing; wave when there is too much distance.
  3. Invite someone different from you to lunch or for coffee.
  4. Share food.
  5. Draw out the “quiet ones” in a meeting and listen to their thoughts and ideas.
  6. Offer a ride when combining cars makes sense.
  7. Ask for input on a project or a decision.
  8. Post your organization’s Diversity Statement prominently for all job seekers to see.
  9. Feature diverse team members in photos on the website to provide an accurate, inclusive view into the organization.
  10. Invite a cross-section of team members to be on committees, task forces, tiger teams or project teams.
  11. Track and publicize quarterly promotions by generation, race, ethnicity, gender, and more.
  12. Seat team members at All Team meetings with others they need to get to know from other departments.
  13. Invite everyone in your workgroup (not just the ones you know well, not just your generation, not just your gender, etc.) to go someplace special for lunch.
  14. Assemble a diverse interview team when adding a new team member.
  15. Rotate who leads meetings to give exposure and growth opportunities to each team member.
  16. Ask your team members for ways to make everyone feel welcome.


Inclusion feels warm, safe, welcoming and filled with potential. Inclusion softens the friction between the drivers and the doers. It charges the atmosphere with positive energy. No matter your generation, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, or language, we all know inclusion when we see it—and feel it!