The Pursuit of Inclusiveness

Certainly, we would all agree that the concept of inclusiveness is fundamental to The Women’s Fund. It is critical to our history as an organization founded by a diverse, yet unified, group of women. It is critical to our organizational structure as an entity made up of numerous, equally-empowered decision makers. It is critical to our mission of seeking to improve the lives of women and girls in Forsyth County by building a community of female philanthropists dedicated to addressing the root causes of social issues impacting these groups on a local level.

Inclusiveness, however, is not a stagnant state of being. In fact, it is one of flux. Our community is an ever-evolving organism with changing demographic and societal influences. We, in turn, must evolve to remain relevant.

The Inclusiveness Committee was formed with the directive to monitor and foster diversity and inclusiveness within The Women’s Fund and ensure that all stakeholders and constituents have a voice. Diversity within our organization impacts everything we do—from membership recruitment to the grants that receive funding. This being the case, about a year ago the committee embarked on an evaluation of perceptions on the topic among Women's Fund members.

Insight Consulting Services was engaged to help explore how various constituencies—individual and group members of all races, lapsed members, participant scholars, grant recipients, and grant submitters—currently feel about our commitment to inclusiveness and what can be done to improve these practices. An online survey was fielded to members in the Fall of last year. Following on the heels of that survey, a series of focus groups and one-on-one interviews were conducted.

Overall, those individuals and groups that the committee spoke with felt that The Women’s Fund does indeed reflect inclusiveness as core value of the organization. However, research findings did show that the topic should continue to be an area that receives attention from the board and members. Specific insights included the following:

• Respondents were interested in initiatives that pursue a more inclusive model

• Fund outreach strategies should be designed to connect with a more diverse group

• Inclusiveness should also be reflected in the Women's Fund staff

• As the Women's Fund matures, we have the opportunity and obligation to shift our focus from inclusive practices to an inclusive membership

According to Velvet Bryant, Co-Chair of the Inclusiveness Committee, subsequent conversations about inclusiveness have "ignited an individual charge and an organizational commitment to intentionally reflect on what an inclusive Fund looks like. Through the research, it was revealed and affirmed that inclusiveness should be woven into every aspect of the Women’s Fund-including its leadership, membership, outreach, and grant making. This conversation and practice is not limited to one committee or one group of people. Philanthropy is a multifaceted approach to social change and our recent conversations have revealed the importance of having an inclusive understanding of philanthropy that translates across cultures and communities represented in Winston-Salem/Forsyth County.”

So what can you do as a member? Recognize that the responsibility for promoting a culture of inclusiveness is not simply an organizational agenda or limited exclusively to one group of people or committee. It’s a personal charge. Each of us is the face of The Women’s Fund and represents the organization in the broader community. Think about keeping inclusiveness top-of-mind in your daily interactions. After all, we are the ones who draw new women into the Fund. We all need to be intentional about putting the findings of the committee into practice in order for the organization to continue to be relevant and thrive.

That’s what social change is all about.

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751 W. Fourth St, Suite 200 • Winston-Salem, NC 27101 • 336.714.3468