Author and nonprofit strategist Ashley Fontaine is a big believer in leading with values. In fact, it’s the name of one of her chapters in Unstuck: Disrupting the Status Quo. “The beauty of clear values is that they serve as an anchor and decision-making compass not just for the head of an organization, but for the entire team,” she writes. And it’s that philosophy that she brought to a “Companis Connects” workshop for our nonprofit partner leaders, helping them map out their personal values.
“One of the things that really helps you stay grounded and protects against burnout is having well understood core personal values of your own – and the organization should have them, too,” she says.
During the workshop, leaders from King and Snohomish County agencies gathered together around a big, wooden table in our Seattle office. And even though these leaders have different backgrounds and serve different populations, they quickly realized that much of their work overlaps in meaningful ways. That led to fruitful conversations about what obstacles they were facing and suggestions for how to overcome them.
“What I heard the most in this workshop was that people really wanted to connect with each other,” says Ashley. “So the biggest takeaway for me was that it’s always beneficial when we can create the space to slow down and help people make genuine connections.” And she says she took valuable time to just let people be with each other because that’s the culture of Companis – putting relationships at the forefront rather than as an afterthought.
The nonprofit leaders seeking that connection are Companis partners with volunteer placements. The goal of these free “Companis Connects” events is to offer experiences that support and enrich the work these organizations do everyday, helping them grow their individual and organizational capacity.
Ashley has had a long relationship with Companis as a nonprofit executive director with volunteer placements, as a Companis placement herself, and later as a consultant to our organization, helping to create and launch communications strategies during the pandemic. She says one of the ways she describes her consulting work is that it’s at the intersection of strategy and culture. “The point of what I’m trying to do is help people have their hands on both of these things because you need both of them to be able to facilitate social change. Strategy by itself is never going to do that. And culture by itself is never going to do that. They have to come together to be successful.”
Her biggest hope for the nonprofit leaders who participated in the “Connects” workshop is that her book Unstuck and the value mapping exercise they shared give them energy for the future, new ways of thinking, and a belief that they can change things. And to that we say, onward!