The work of the Women’s Fund speaks to us both as a women-owned business, and on a personal level. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of economic independence for women– it allows us to live our own lives, empowers us to walk away from unhealthy relationships, and frees us to decide who we want to be in the world.
The team reached out to us when they found themselves transitioning between offices and without a home base. We are more than happy to serve as their temporary home, and we hope that their time at Groundwork! will serve to connect them to our growing entrepreneur community. Valerie, Dez, and Tracie bring a sense of steady determination, quiet passion, and style to our space. In this interview, executive director Valerie Basset explains about the Women’s Fund mission and how they work:
What does your organization do?
The Women’s Fund raises funds and invests in women’s economic strength. Our goal is to increase the percentage of women in the region who earn a living wage — which means enough to support themselves and their families. Our job is to work with partners to identify the best solutions for this region – both policies and programs – and educate the community about and drive forward those solutions. Last year, we convened the Task Force on Pathways for Women to a Living Wage, which developed the Economic Blueprint for Women that will guide our work and investments going forward.
What are the core values and principles that drive you?
Collaboration, diversity, bold leadership, and social justice. We strive to inspire and nurture these values in our donors, volunteers, grantees and the community as a whole.
How would you describe your team’s culture?
Sisterhood. Dedicated, playful, intense, creative, close relationships, passion for the mission and work, lots of humor.
What is the biggest challenge you face working as a team?
With two positions part-time, not enough person-hours to do the work we envision. Managing the combination of focus on work with our personal relationships.
What is your typical meeting and communication rhythm like?
We meet a lot and also talk a lot between meetings. We have two official full-team meetings per week: one focused on communications and one broader. And staff members have weekly 1:1s with the ED. But we will often communicate as we go; we try to use IM so as not to be constantly interrupting one another. Most weeks there are also 1-2 committee meetings.
What tools make teamwork easier for you?
Instant messaging; Salesforce TaskRay; Google Drive, lunch meetings, giant wipe-off boards, good, light-filled meeting space.
How does your team recognize and celebrate success?
We praise each other’s strengths and accomplishments a lot – verbally, in email, at our Leadership Council meetings and in our electronic/social media communications. We generally do something special after a big successful event: have lunch or a drink together, get cupcakes, etc.
How do you benefit from using a coworking space?
First of all, this has been a great interim location while work was being done on the Community Foundation offices and while we plan for our next home. We love the open space and the wonderful light – the friendliness and community of other people and organizations here. Working at Groundwork puts us in the midst of interesting, creative work by other organizations that we wouldn’t be around otherwise. I am sensing that there will be opportunities for cross-fertilization of work and new partners that grow out of this.
Being around entrepreneurs also makes me think about the entrepreneurial nature of our work – especially as we’ve been transitioning to do our work a little differently, like sticking our necks out with the new Task Force on Pathways for Women to a Living Wage and seeing if people would come along with us. I see what we have in common, though it may not be obvious at first.
Do you have any words of advice for people working for non-profits?
Bring play into it as much as possible. Value relationships – the people involved in the work – your co-workers, partners, donors, volunteers – as much as your mission. Experiment.
What inspires you (or your team)?
The women in the LifeWork Project, without a doubt. They are so determined and resilient, working, raising children mostly as single mothers, and going to school – usually the first people in their family to go to higher education. They face so many obstacles in their path to economic self-sufficiency and have such strong spirits, intelligence and openness; it always grounds us in the work we do and puts our own challenges in perspective.
Often our anger at injustices and inequities inspire us.
And our volunteers and donors. We are often blown away by people’s generosity. People spend so much of their time working hard on our committees, giving so deeply — it’s really a community of people sharing a heart connection to the mission, wanting to help women move to economic strength and are willing to really roll up their sleeves, share what they have to make that happen.
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