Women Cultivating Community Connections

Member Blog

On Friday, June 14, 2013 Women Give San Diego hosted our first conference titled, “Women Cultivating Community Connections,” for our members and grantees.

Whether you attended or not, I invite you to grab a cup of coffee, wine or your beverage of choice, find a comfy spot to sit and get ready to immerse yourself in this blog because there was so much value offered at this conference and we have captured it here for your benefit!

Our intention for Women Cultivating Community Connections was to host a conference where we could enhance our circles of influence by bringing our existing relationships together to collaborate further and provide greater impact to those we serve. The result was rich content, experiential learning and sage advice from individuals and organizations that are creating impact and changing our world.

As a side note, we also decided we wouldn’t introduce our speakers with lengthy bios but rather by 6 word memoirs. During breakfast we had participants and speakers use colored paper, magazines and markers to create their 6 word memoirs and then for the remainder of the conference we introduced people using their creation. Here is an example of Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus’ memoir:

One of our first speakers was Nancy Jamison, Executive Director of San Diego Grantmakers. Nancy shared that we must “act bigger” and we must “connect better” as non-profits and philanthropists. In order to create greater change, we must activate our networks and weave the various expressions of philanthropy that we all offer together in a way that goes beyond money. We must incorporate our voices, powerful research and the sharing of intelligence. Nancy recognized Women Give San Diego for being an organization that is leading by example for this new wave of philanthropy and that our impact will continue to grow.

Prior to the conference we surveyed our grantees that work within non-profits to better understand the areas within their organizations where they struggle and thrive. Let’s take a look at some of the results including the most popular answers:

1. What do you struggle with most as an organization?

2. What do you feel most optimistic about with your organization?

3. What do you need most?
Funding and staffing.

These results show interesting commonalities and also opened up a perfect forum for a panel discussion with two of our grant partners, The Barrio Logan College Institute and Casa Cornelia Law Center

Session 1 Panel with Grantees:

Johanna Schiavoni, WGSD member and moderator for the panel, shared that our survey showed organizations struggle with expansion yet they remain optimistic for growth. So how do you grapple with strategies to expand while believing in the organizations mission and ability to grow?

Carmen Chavez from Casa Cornelia commented, “In order for us to stay focused on meeting the needs of our community we look to actions not words.” Casa Cornelia like many other small non-profits recognizes that in order to be successful you have to focus on the growth of your impact, “meeting the needs of our community” not necessarily the size of your organization in staff or funding. Though funding and staff are integral to an organizations success, the long-term growth of an organization depends on its ability to expand impact.

On the topic of managing a non-profit organization successfully there was much advice shared from our panelists and audience including the following:

Being an Executive Director is like being the Chief Energy Officer, you have to learn how to effectively manage the energies of your staff and your board.

It is important to be accurate and transparent with accounting. Use volunteers on the board, eventually incorporate staff or an accounting firm but always focus on financial accuracy and transparency. At minimum Executive Directors need to understand the words and concepts of the organization’s financial position and be able to read financial statements.

Gratitude is a practice that must be a priority and be ongoing. Some organizations have ongoing gratitude events, emails, calls, etc. but all of them find creative ways to say thank you to the people and other organizations that make their impact possible. Additionally, the more specific you can be about the impact delivered because of the time and money your donors and volunteers gave, the more profound your thank you will be.

An executive director needs to get out there and build relationships but make sure your passenger seat is never empty. Constituents should have a relationship with at least two or three people within the organization so when transitions occur no one falls through the cracks.

Always put a volunteer between you and the problem— it strengthens relationships with volunteers and takes pressure of the executive director.

Create a strategic plan and then commit to it being a living organic document. It needs to be a continuum and constantly be evolving. If possible leverage community resources to support pro bono with strategic planning. Further, set specific objectives, tasks and committees. Each committee has to hit certain goals by specific dates and then set quarterly reviews to hold people accountable and for recalibrating.

Use the strategic plan to guide your board retreat.

Board members should have terms but once a year have a “state of the union” allowing all past and current board members to come together and listen to the current vision and weigh in on the next phase of growth for the organization.

We hope these words of wisdom are insightful and useful in your organization and are grateful to our panelists and audience members for sharing.

The next session of the conference was an experiential learning through a World Café setting.

Session 2 World Café -We are all here for the same reason:

The world café allows an opportunity for small groups to convene around a table to share ideas, actively listen and connect perspectives around topics addressed through questions. After the group has a chance to share and connect, individuals rotate to another table to further the collaboration. Once the groups have completed answering a few questions and rotating tables a few times the group is guided through a Harvest. During the harvest, a facilitator captures the common themes and writes them down where the entire audience can see the culmination of ideas and perspectives around the key questions asked.

Renee Herrell, WGSD Member facilitated the World Café experience and asked our participants three questions. Why are you here? If you could create a world where all women and girls had economic self-sufficiency and security, what would that look like? What leap can we make together?

Here are just a few examples of what the Harvest looked like:
We are here to collaborate on solutions for the issues that face women and girls
We can stop judging ourselves and others
We can stop competing and start collaborating.
We could have an equitable society.
Leaders need mentors too.
We can share the load, we all play a part.
Acknowledge girls for being intelligent, not pretty.

Lunch and Learn

After completing a world café the group was ready to dive into a lunch and learn where we enjoyed a healthy meal thanks to Jimbos and beverages from Zevia while listening to Florence Quinn discuss the importance of self-nourishment. Here are some of her key thoughts on healthy eating:

Cooking is one of the few times you can stimulate all five senses. It is about movement, eating and breathing and it is also about creation, connection and transformation.

In order to eat healthy, you must make cooking and preparing food important. We find time for the things that are important in our lives so if you make eating healthy important you will find time to cook.

Focus on natural food not processed.

Buy food at farmers markets. Produce loses its nutrients he longer it sits on a shelf so purchasing produce at a farmers market increases the probability of it being fresh. Also, San Diego produces 150 crops per year and has the most organic farmers out of any city in the country.

Explore seasonal offerings and the best seasoning you can add to your food is mindfulness.

Here are some other tips from Florence on “how to eat”:
Put utensils down after each bite
Eat in silence for one meal per day if possible or at least take your first few bites in silence.
Eat when seated.
Eat separate from watching TV or reading.

Session 3: Community Resource Mapping

Women Give member, Patricia Sinay, took on the hardest part of the day in the afternoon following lunch. Most people start to drift at this part of the day but Patricia’s sessions had members on the edge of their seats and interacting with one and other.

Patricia took participants through a process called asset mapping and used Women Give San Diego as an example. Patricia asked WGSD members to answer a series of questions ahead of time so she could assess what assets we as a group have to offer that can leverage our success as an organization. Let’s take a look at the process and results:

Women Give Asset Mapping:
The first question provides context, “What do we do?”
Advocacy, grant making, women and girls, economic self-sufficiency, creating gatherings, recruiting members, mentoring, etc.

Next, ask your members, volunteers, staff, donors, etc. “What do you enjoy doing?” You don’t want to have volunteers sign up for things they don’t enjoy so instead of asking them how they want to help ask them what do they enjoy.

For Women Give members and grantees the top answers were:
1. Solving problems 2. Meeting new people 3. Connecting people

The lowest three areas we checked off were:
1. Planning event 2. Throwing a party 3. Raising money

When reading these results Patricia found an interesting result: the things we like to do are actually what we do through the activities we listed that we didn’t like to do. In other words, though we don’t like planning events, throwing parties and raising money we end up doing all three of those because we love solving problems, meeting new people and connecting with people. The key take away here is that you may have a need for event planning and your volunteer may be good at or able to plan an event but that isn’t their passion. However, if you can find out what they are passionate about, say for instance meeting new people, then you can ask them if they would be interested in supporting an event where they can meet new people. Now you get what you need and the volunteer is happy because they get to do what they actually enjoy doing.

Other questions you can ask when conducting an asset mapping for your organization are:
What do people like doing outside of work? How can we tap into that for what we need?
What are your talents?

When conducting an asset map you must consider who is in your circle of influence. Here is an example of a list of some of Women Give’s Circle of Influence:
Small business owners
Large company execs
Elected officials
Government employees
Banking executives
Leaders from other organizations

The final session of the day was a reflection opportunity for participants to look back on the conference and discuss the areas that they could take back into their communities and their organizations to support the causes we serve. It was clear that the most common take away was the importance of collaboration and partnerships. Participants walked away with tools to take back to their organizations in order to engage and enroll more supporters so they can deliver more impact.

The conference ended with a networking and mingling event sponsored by Tio Leo’s where participants were able to reflect more and continue the conversation. The objective of the conference was to be a catalyst for collaboration and provide a space for leaders to come together for a day and then continue to partner off line. We look forward to watching as these partnerships and collaborative efforts grow and as a result provide greater impact to women and girls in San Diego and beyond.