Heart creates meaning behind our work, grounding our values, connections, and our commitment to do better.

Heart is not an easy concept to define. Having heart can mean to have drive, to be passionate, to care about the work we do. Heart can be expressing oneself with love, compassion, and a deep sense of care for others. Heart is empathy and authenticity and the embodiment of hope for change.

Definitions of heart are distinct to every group or individual. Recently, our staff came to together to discuss what heart means to us. We reaffirmed that heart, in all its complexity, is a value that truly grounds us in our work.

Living the value of heart represents a personal commitment we hold and one that we share in the workplace. In our mission, vision, and values—in each of our various roles—we can feel the heartbeat of the work we do. It connects us to each other, our grantees, and the communities we serve on an emotional level. Heart brings humanity to our work.

NWAF Heart Word Cloud

At the center of heart is empathy.

Especially in recent years, empathy has become incredibly important. It’s well known that a smile can be contagious, but it’s also important to be able to feel and share more difficult emotions with others.

Grantmakers can dwell too often in head space, engaging in abstract discussions of problems and solutions. But a major part of our work is to provide compassion and understanding. It’s crucial in creating a genuine connection with grantees.

Our ability to show humility and care for others is what fuels strong connections that transcend the transactional interactions so common in philanthropy. And when we show others empathy, kindness, and respect, the impact reverberates.

A major part of our work is to provide compassion and understanding. It’s crucial in creating a genuine connection with grantees.

When grantees succeed, the heartbeat grows.

A common thread is the joy we feel when grantees have success. Our work is centered around grantees. When they achieve their vision of prosperity and happiness, our passion for the mission deepens.

At our regular board meetings, board members and staff have the opportunity to hear from grantees and from members of the communities our grantees serve. Grantees and community members share their stories and experiences, opening their hearts to us. They speak their truth.

In these moments, we feel their emotions and passions, and we are personally touched and changed. By seeing them, hearing them, and feeling their emotions through a personal lens, we’re better able to put their needs and realities first in our work.

smudge basket

Heart is also about lifting each other up, personally and professionally.

Philanthropic institutions possess the financial means and influence to affect change, speak out on public policy, and lift up communities in need. This work can be transcendent when there is a sense of unity and a shared commitment for the work. Supporting and understanding each other—what unifies us as staff—is essential.

Heart is visible when we center people more than process or guidelines. This comes in the form of a staff member offering smudging and reflection before meetings. It’s when we choose to change the planned agenda, taking time to check in with each other. It’s when we feel moved by the work, and our dedication extends beyond our staff roles. It’s when we create a work culture where everyone feels valued and included. When we acknowledge the humanity of each person working at the Foundation, heart is present.

Share This Page