Working Group: Culture

From AwesomeWiki

Culture: what is your chapter’s culture? Do you create is intentionally or is it organic? How do you integrate new people into it? Does it change over time? Diversity? And whatever else is on your mind.

3/6/16 AM session, hosted by Rachel (

Rachel’s notes: Story: crisis of non-attendance among trustees in place where people have high pressure jobs and often don’t stay long. Newish trustee had lots of experience at culture change and documentation, so created 3 types of trustee roles and formalized requirements and responsibilities. Trustees do more work now (not just give money) -> feel more ownership/commitment -> do more work. Virtuous cycle, and they kick ass.

Story: a chapter has many long-tenured trustees who have shorthand amongst each other, newer trustees have trouble feeling truly part of group, get discouraged. Suggestion: experiment with lots of different ways of doing things (pitch parties vs. closed meetings), times of meetings, venues for meetings. Build social time into schedule separate from business time.

Story: how do you keep up your external brand and show your culture to your community? Some chapters pay a social media person by collecting “an extra grant” each year as a stipend. Has worked well. Other chapters do no social media, rely on word of mouth via grantees and their own networks and pitch parties, and this works fine. Social media is a surprising amount of work! Idea: global Awesome newsletter? Or regional, eg Brazil or PNW (2-3 chapters together)?

Story: some chapters are really white and affluent (and/or techie). How do we reach out to communities we aren’t part of and don’t have connections to? Eg Somali immigrant community in Seattle, across the river in DC. Idea: get in touch with people who have been quoted in local weekly re: a community, explain AF and ask for further intros. Talk to those people about how to reach out to their community, get them to act as ambassadors? Go to community gatherings to take applications if appropriate? Invite someone to guest trustee (sponsored/proxy)?

How do you change an existing culture?

  • Brainstorm together at a special meeting (non granting) - everyone included, invested
  • Group generates written values/goals/principles, these become standards we can hold ourselves to
  • Experiment!
  • Bring in new blood (everyone sponsor a guest month?)
  • Rotate leadership amongst everyone and see what happens

Pitch parties allow for connections between pitchers, allow non-grantees to get connections and resources through side channels. One trustee from a pitch party chapter “can’t imagine AF without parties”

Everything in our work lives has a diversity mission statement. Sort of surprising that AF doesn’t have this, but it’s purposefully lightweight. Some chapters considering it to drive outreach efforts.

Story: a chapter that grants every other month, and uses non-grant months for other chapter business/social time. Those meetings are optional but enough people come. Helps to make sure meta-business gets handled and is important part of culture.

Keep the ethos of experimentation, keep the culture evolving.

Will’s notes:

  • DC Trustee Roles, FAQ & guide (more documentation and FAQ examples:
  • Brazil pays for a social media poster to help promotion
  • Portland: Every other month party seems to work better for their applications and for; Trustee spot sharing option, helps financially for folks who can’t do it full, rotates between two people; Community event parties help share out and promote the group
  • Deans are sometimes comped / free
  • Louisville -- Trustees pay an extra month of their dues to help with admin stuff
  • Ambassadors who can join and be floating trustees for a while to raise awareness -- find people who have already put themselves out in the media as voices of those communities and bring them into the meetings
  • DC publishes a statement of diversity and inclusion to encourage and acknowledge the challenge:

Diversity & Inclusion:

The trustees of the Awesome Foundation DC are committed to supporting and embracing the diversity of the vibrant DC community. We acknowledge we are not as diverse as we should be to represent DC at the moment and we are always actively looking for new, diverse Full Time Trustees that can commit and contribute to the group and also always actively welcome diverse guest trustees to attend meetings and see what the experience is about. If you or someone you know is interested, please read more about the Trustee experience and different roles and contact us at awesomefoundationdc [at] gmail [dot] com.

We also seek to fund diverse grant proposals and try to fund different projects that will affect large groups from different communities and spread awesome experiences to the diverse populous of Washington D.C. We try to not fund too many of any of the same type of event (for instance, community gardens or several book proposals, etc.) and are working to seek out and identify new grant opportunities in all of DC’s wards. For more grant applicant advice, please see our guide. '

  • Give trustees a clear, time-boxed schedule -- when will schmoozing/social be, when will voting happen, so folks that are looking for those two different experiences can get what they're looking for out of the group
  • Communication about meetings is through email, DC does Hobnob too to share out via SMS
  • Portland does documentation of the meeting notes and sends those out right after so if people miss they aren’t out of the loop.
  • Existing relationships with the trustees help keep people
  • Send a survey out afterwards to collect feedback on the meeting and what you thought, why they aren’t interested
  • Some chapters need to be more self aware, avoid inside jokes, make it clear that they’re here to join and welcome new trustees
  • Dean burn out is a real thing. How to prevent it is sharing the load. Portland creates a task list at each party and rotates tasks throughout the group so it’s not all on one person.
  • Rotate days of the week, so that everyone can have an opportunity to the meeting
  • Have a dinner afterwards (tell people not to eat ahead of time), to motivate people to get to a decision quicker

Organizing tasks / management of administration tools:

  • Trello
  • Google Drive / Doc with tasks
  • Paper list of tasks (portland) mailed out with meeting notes