It’s hard to believe that I recently celebrated my second anniversary as President of Washington Women’s Foundation. When I was hired in the Foundation’s 19th year, the Board of Directors charged me with setting the course for the Foundation’s future. You can’t get to “Point B” if you don’t know your starting point, “Point A,” so I spent most of my first year trying to understand the Foundation’s Point A.
What did I discover?
I learned that much of the narrative about Washington Women’s Foundation, including the community’s perceptions of us as well as our own mission statement and logo, didn’t align with who we are today. Before helping us set our sights on the future, I felt like we needed this alignment.
What did we do?
When I discussed my findings with the Board of Directors, they agreed that it was time to refresh and update the look of Washington Women’s Foundation. We formed a Brand Research Work Group and hired a brand design and research firm. Megan Davies (Director of Communications & Programs) and I served on the Work Group along with Board Chair Martha Kongsgaard, Cabinet Chair Barbara Fielden and two “at-large” members, Bo Lee and Nicole Resch.
Our research firm first interviewed representatives of our staff, Board and membership. The firm also reviewed our current brand, including marketing materials and our website, as well as the brand positioning of our “competitors.”
What did we learn?
We learned from these interviews that our organizational culture is a key differentiator – the community experience within the membership is highly valued and there is a great deal of trust in our membership and in our grant making process. Our community not only attracts new members, it is a key factor in retention. In addition, interviewees made special note of:
- The caliber of the women in our membership;
- The intellectual rigor of our conversations; and
- Our shared attitude of openness and curiosity.
There was one difference of opinion:
- Younger members especially expressed a concern that WA Women’s Foundation would need to evolve to attract other young women and more diverse women.
Next the research firm interviewed prospective, current and lapsed members as well as a few philanthropic leaders in our community, including our grantees. We learned through these interviews that:
- While members view our community as open and curious, the lack of membership diversity was identified as an organizational weakness that impacts how the community, including prospective members, views WA Women’s Foundation.
- Both members and non-members wanted WA Women’s Foundation to update its mission. The current mission was viewed as better describing what the Foundation originally was rather than what it is now, and many members believed that a new, more aspirational mission was needed to align with how they see WA Women’s Foundation – as a “powerful game changer.”
Previous Mission Statement:
The Washington Women’s Foundation educates, inspires and increases the number of women committed to philanthropy in order to strengthen community and demonstrate the impact that can result from informed, focused grant making.
The final research step was an online survey of the full membership conducted over the course of two weeks this past January and February. 275 members completed the survey! We were pleased to see that the participants include a good cross-section of our membership, newer members as well as 10+ members, younger members, more engaged members and members who simply contribute and vote.
Through the survey, you told us that you agreed with and thought the following were the most important aspects of WA Women’s Foundation:
- Washington Women’s Foundation educates members on important issues.
- Washington Women’s Foundation focuses attention on critical issues.
- Washington Women’s Foundation is open to all women who wish to become members.
- Washington’s Women’s Foundation is a community of strong women.
We also learned that you were ready for Washington Women’s Foundation to change and take on new challenges. You expressed a desire for the Foundation to challenge you to engage in bold and transformational giving, to focus attention on often overlooked issues and to become an even more inclusive community of women.
During both rounds of interviews and in the membership survey, we tested concepts, themes and words to inform the revision of our mission statement and the development of our new brand. We learned that you supported many of the same values as the Board of Directors and our Brand Research Work Group.
After nine months and many, many, many drafts, the Board of Directors adopted a new mission statement for WA Women’s Foundation.
Washington Women’s Foundation is a strong and inclusive collective of informed women who together influence community transformation.
We do this:
Through individual and collective discovery.
Through high-impact grant making.
By listening to and respecting all voices in our community.
The statement is grounded in our history of collective grant making and education, recognizes the strengths and unique qualities of our members and acknowledges that community change requires a partnership among our members as well as with our community. These are all fundamental tenets of how we do what we do at Washington Women’s Foundation.
So perhaps more importantly, the new mission statement sets firmly before us our greatest aspirations – to become more inclusive as a membership organization, to become more deeply informed about the most pressing issues facing communities throughout Washington state, and to more powerfully wield our collective influence in pursuit of community transformation. These are the challenges of the world as we know it today.
However, because of our history at Washington Women’s Foundation, we know the challenges ahead of us are never as great as the power behind us. We are Washington Women’s Foundation.
Through our groundbreaking model of women-powered, collective philanthropy, Washington Women’s Foundation has awarded $16 million in transformational grants that have enabled not-for-profit organizations to improve lives, protect the environment, advance health and education and increase access to the arts throughout Washington state.
All women are invited to join our strong and inclusive collective of informed women influencing community transformation. The challenges ahead of us are never as great as the power behind us. www.wawomensfdn.org
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