by Marty Wiggins
2016 Board Chair, Women’s Fund of Smith County
For most people and organizations, the New Year is a time of making resolutions or at least thinking about what you would like to accomplish in the coming 12 months and how to meet those goals. Instead of the “what” and “how,” I’m extending the challenge for you to think about the “why.”
Like many organizations, in January the Women’s Fund of Smith County held its annual board retreat – a time of bonding, planning and aiming high. In looking over the 2016 board team, the “group resume” of these 23 women is incredible. They collectively hold an impressive variety of educational degrees; their job experience extends over decades in the fields of law, education, healthcare, management, community service, real estate and finance. They are wives, mothers, grandmothers, sisters and caregivers. They love their community – but as always – they have limited time and resources to give, so a decision to serve must be carefully considered.
“All organizations start with WHY, but only the great ones keep their WHY clear year after year,” says Simon Sinek, noted author and consultant who teaches organizations and leaders how to inspire people. “By WHY I mean your purpose, cause or belief – WHY does your (organization) exist? And WHY should anyone care?”
Women’s Fund board member Marilyn Abegg Glass led our 2016 board group through an opening exercise based on Sinek’s writings, including “Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action.”
So, why does the Women’s Fund exist? Again, it’s vitally important to answer the “why” first, not “what” happens within the organization or “how.” The Women’s Fund was created as a unique opportunity in for women to pool their financial resources, resulting in high-impact grants for programs benefiting women and children in Smith County. As many members have stated, “where else could I make a personal contribution, and then see it combined with those of other women into major grants for causes I believe in?” This includes the fact that collective giving also includes member voting and collaborative “ownership” of the grants awarded.
“If you have the opportunity to do amazing things in your life, I strongly encourage you to invite someone to join you.”
At a personal level, our board members cited a myriad of reasons on why they choose to give of their time, talent and treasure to the Women’s Fund. Their answers ranged from growing relationships, embracing leadership and being more aware of community needs . . . to building stronger nonprofit organizations and seeing the long-term impact of pooled funds for our community and individuals.
In short, the Women’s Fund board returned to the organization’s core values – growing philanthropy, community focus, leveraged giving, trusted stewardship, impact and network of givers – as defining the “why” any woman might consider joining this dynamic organization. We are Women Leading Change, with an economic track record approaching $1 million, and a personal impact that is virtually unmeasurable, considering how this organization changes lives within its own membership to our agency relationships to the women and children ultimately served.
For Women’s Fund members and non-members alike, the “why” of any nonprofit organization should be important to you as a potential donor. Don’t just look at what the agency does or how it works; instead, start with the “why” as you decide on agencies and causes that you can care about passionately. Having that conversation with a nonprofit’s leadership will go far in helping you decide if this is a program you believe in, you trust and you want to support.
The “why” of a nonprofit agency also provides board members, donors and others with what to say when they have a chance to talk about their wonderful organization. Instead of dreading a two-minute “elevator speech,” simply talk about WHY you care. A supporter may struggle to recite a mission statement word-for-word, or list all of an agency’s accomplishments, but they will always remember why they care – it’s their own story and it has the greatest impact on others.
Simon Sinek also says, “If you have the opportunity to do amazing things in your life, I strongly encourage you to invite someone to join you.” The Women’s Fund of Smith County is doing amazing things, and one of the best aspects is that our giving circle is always growing. Please invite women you know to consider joining our diverse, progressive group of 200+ women who are continually defining why we care, why we exist as an organization and how we can best impact and inspire others.
Visit www.womensfundsc.org for membership information and ongoing updates regarding the Women’s Fund of Smith County.