Leading with Our Values!

How does an individual, a team, a board of directors, or an entire organization lead to fulfill its values and goals? 

The most effective organizations lead by being rooted in their shared values.  In 2017, Philanthropy West Virginia adopted six defined values for its work and mission fulfillment.  These values include: Inclusion, Leadership, Collaboration, Lifelong Learning, Integrity, and Advancing West Virginia.

Most recently, our board of directors and staff annual planning session discussed and identified ways for us to live and lead with these values more actively. This first value I’m focusing on is the value of Inclusion.

When you think of the word philanthropy, there are several definitions: generosity, giving of one’s wealth for the betterment of the community, and love of humanity are just a few. Philanthropy WV’s leadership value of Inclusion is directly linked to “the love of humanity” definition of philanthropy.

In February, our board and staff had a thoughtful and purposeful presentation, discussion, and took action steps for us as philanthropy, citizens, and leaders around Inclusiveness and Diversity.  Thanks to our board member and President & CEO of The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation Dr. Michelle Foster who presented on “Leadership & Workforce Diversity in Philanthropy”.

Dr. Foster’s presentation highlighted how philanthropy can do better to be aware of the history and how we can shape a brighter and broader future. Dr. Foster’s presentation added to Philanthropy WV’s learning the past few years in raising the importance of diversity and inclusion in philanthropy.  Since 2017, diversity and inclusion is a major focus for our Annual Conferences and general programs to educate us all on better ways to be inclusive in our work and communities.  At the 2018 Conference and 25th Anniversary Celebration, our opening keynote speaker Gladys Washington, Deputy Director of the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation put us on course with her presentation titled: “Patience, Please: How Philanthropic perseverance can foster social change and equity in the South”.

Ms. Washington stressed the importance of equity, inclusion, and diversity by sharing that, “We all do better, when we all do better.”  Ms. Washington noted that when we include all at the table and in our work that we create better opportunities for all populations.  Both Dr. Foster and Ms. Washington’s presentations were very educational, inspiring, and action-oriented for our work in philanthropy.  Some of the take aways as to applying the value of inclusiveness is for philanthropy to:

Based upon this continued learning journey on inclusion for myself and our organization some of the new practices and improved steps we are taking include:

  • Explore and learn best practices at the board, committee, staff, and partner levels by inviting leaders such as Dr. Michelle Foster, Ms. Gladys Washington, and others to present and educate ourselves then develop next steps to improve inclusion practices
  • Incorporate new or improved practices for inclusion and diversity in your organization’s work, such as:  (1) invite new board and committee members from currently under-represented communities, and (2) upon assessing your grantees host conversations with under-served/represented communities to improve outreach to these communities
  • Promote more inclusion, diversity, and equity in our society by making the topic a keynote at our Conferences and Seminars then modeling hiring and operation practices that reach diverse communities
  • Provide resources and connections for Philanthropy WV’s members to advance equity, diversity, and inclusion in their organizations and communities.
  • Continue learning and using great resources such as those found at United Philanthropy Forum’s online resource center

This is an ongoing learning experience for Philanthropy West Virginia.  While our state has a smaller percentage of minority populations,  it does not mean we should not be doing this work. Rather it can take more time and effort, but it is important as leaders to know our blind spots in our boards, staff, grantmaking, and communities to take steps that improve this work.  As one great mentor of mine shared years ago with me, “If you are not learning as you age, you aren’t growing. If you aren’t growing, you’re dying. West Virginia needs growth.”


Philanthropy is about learning and growth to become better at applying “the love of humanity” in our communities.   As philanthropy and citizens of our great state are more inclusive and lead by our values, we see stronger, better, and growing communities for we are always #BetterTogetherWV.