Values in Action: Embracing Our Community Norms 

A commitment to a culture of inclusion guides all the educational, philanthropic, and outreach programs we pursue at Washington Women’s Foundation (WaWF). Membership and grant committee volunteers strive for respectful interactions as we partner with nonprofit organizations to tackle pressing needs in our state. One recent document that members will have in hand as they begin their work for 2024 is the Community Norms agreement, shared here.  

This succinct list of values summarizes WaWF’s commitment to carry out our collective philanthropy in a spirit of open-minded inquiry and mutual regard. The document outlines agreements to value the varying perspectives of fellow members, non-profit partners, and staff. If we converted the document to a word cloud, ideas in large type would be “esteem,” “trust,” and ”respect.” 

 The goal in creating the Community Norms was to ensure an environment in all WaWF programs where participants feel comfortable speaking from diverse outlooks and lived experiences. This is especially needed as we have challenging conversations around our grant criteria for racial equity and gender justice, issues that can be expected to bring up strong feelings and opinions.  

The Community Norms were developed in 2023 as an outgrowth of the 2020 strategic plan, which included input from a mix of long-time and newer members via focus groups. A Membership Task Force made up of board members and representatives from the broader membership created the first version of the norms.  

For the 2023 grant cycle of Collective, Advocacy, and Women & Girls awards, committees had the first Community Norms in hand, along with longstanding group agreements addressing communication, confidentiality, and conflict of interest. The Collective Grant work groups incorporated the norms as they wrestled with complex and sometimes controversial approaches to food sovereignty, women’s reproductive rights, and early childhood education.  

Staff solicited members’ responses to the norms, particularly from the Cabinet of committee chairs and the Grantee Engagement Team, which cultivates relationships with grant recipients. The Community Resource Group, newly formed by the board to support the Community Norms, then revised the document so that it could be used in the next grant cycle. 

As WaWF members implement the Community Norms, we invite them to suggest refinements for what is meant to be a living document. We want to know how committees will apply abstract values in concrete situations. To consider a few questions of norms in action: 

  • What does the agreement to ”embrace differing cultural traditions and norms among members, staff, and our non-profit applicants and grantees” look like in practice, as we welcome a more race- and gender-diverse membership?  
  • Will younger members who join at the new non-profit level encourage us to “challenge traditional ways of working”?  
  • And will a broader range of grant applicants, attracted by the equity focus of our revised funding criteria, help us “be bold visionaries”?  

Stating group agreements is a first step; applying them becomes a daily exercise. If  participants in WaWF programs would like to talk through a challenging situation, they can reach out to staff, fellow committee members, or grant work-group leaders.  

The board’s Community Resource Group is also ready to assist in promoting productive communication and resolving frictions that may arise. In 2024 members will be Sue Bennett, chair, Patricia Kiyono, Alison Varco, and Janet Frohnmayer. People should feel free to contact anyone in the Community Resource Group, particularly Sue at communityresourcegroup@wawomensfdn.org.

As we look forward to coming together in the new year to advance social equity in Washington State, the Community Norms remind us: “Our time together should be joyful, even as we work on serious matters. We strive to create a better world, and it cannot be a better world without joy.”  

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