RecognizeGood: You’ve been at Austin Community Foundation for a while, so how have you seen the culture grow and develop over time with continuous improvement? Or was it there when you started and y’all continue to shepherd it?
Misty Whited: I believe it was there when I started. I think a lot of it has to do with leadership and working under Mike Nellis. I had previously worked with Mike when I was at Thinkery, so I kind of knew what I was getting into when I joined the team. Our culture is important to us and it helps us do a good job at our work and it helps us deliver well in the community and the work that we do to support it. There are lots of different little perks that we offer, but overall, the leadership and just everyone at the Foundation cares for one another.
We all want to see ourselves and our colleagues do well, both professionally as well as personally. That’s just really important to us.
RecognizeGood: I think that ACF has publicly had a pretty renewed focus on equity and making sure your grantmaking hits all the spots where you know it’s needed. Can you talk a little bit about why respect and fairness to those that you serve is so important to you?
Misty: The bottom line is that the community foundation is here to make Austin a better place, to make Austin more equitable for everyone who lives here regardless of where you come from or what you do. That’s important here at our staff, too. We treat our staff fairly and it’s very important that we build a strong culture of fairness, inclusion, and commitment to doing good and reiterate that in our professional work as well.
We are trying to be as transparent as possible. We are stewarding millions of our donors’ dollars, which are the community’s dollars – so it’s important for us to have integrity and to make good choices when it comes to our business as well as how we make an impact in in the community.
RecognizeGood: Do you feel any weight of duty or responsibility to model what that looks like in terms of general philanthropy?
Misty: I would say that we’re learning, just as so many other organizations in our community are learning, as things develop like in the year that we’ve just had. Whether it’s the pandemic or the increased spotlight on social justice and the importance of equity there, we’re learning just as anyone else is.
The best thing that we can do is share what we’ve learned and build upon it, and continue to do better, continue to look for ways to make things more efficient, more effective, more equitable every day.
There’s just not a stopping point. You continually have to work to make things better in terms of how you’re delivering your work.
RecognizeGood: Everybody was figuring stuff out on the fly for so for so long, but those that have thrived took care of our people first – those are the ones that really succeeded. When it comes to taking care of your people first in order to be able to be a good steward, is there anything that’s stuck out to you? Are there any scenarios or policies in place that you’re a particular fan of?
Misty: We have a really great PTO policy and during the pandemic, when a lot of us were working hard to meet the needs of the community, we incorporated some recharge days. Typically in a PTO setting you take time off, but there’s still the potential that you’re going to look at your phone. You’re going to hear a ping or something, and you might respond to it, but we wanted people to close the office and say “We’re recharging.”
We want people to take care of themselves, and I think that’s something that our CEO says a lot – take the time you need to do whatever your family might need of you. Or professionally, if you need a break or a couple days or so to recharge. I think that’s really important for us right now, especially as we continue to work in this for more than 12 months. Now we’re making sure that people are taking the time that they need and making sure that they’re supported – we’ve also given our staff gift cards so that they could set up their home offices to the to the meet their needs. A lot of our staff didn’t have computers from the office to bring home to so we made sure that they have laptops and other things as well. Like if they needed a desk or a chair that they didn’t have beforehand, we made sure that we supported them on that front, too.
It’s not something we openly talk about, but it’s like I said, it’s something that’s important for us to do for our people to make sure they feel supported.