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Crafting a Culture of Better Together

Better Together Culture

October 24, 2022

Much has changed over the past few years as we have collectively revisited the world of work. But what has stayed the same is our most valuable asset, our people. At the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines, we are a small team doing big work. Our team of 30 administrators is responsible for nearly $800 million in assets and over 2,400 charitable giving funds. We promote charitable giving, connect donors with causes they care about and provide leadership on important community issues. Because we believe we are better together.

Community Foundation Culture

And that “better together” spirit has driven our organization to tremendous growth. Growth is unable to be achieved without every team member working towards our goals. So how have we grown 72% over the past 10 years? The answer is simple, culture. While the answer is simple, the work is not. Creating the culture we strive for is intentional. It takes the entire team to develop and hold one another accountable. At the Community Foundation, our team developed a series of statements defining our company culture. We call these statements our Pillars of Purpose. Each of us has the Pillars printed and displayed at our desks so we can be reminded of what is important to us and ensure how we show up and serve others holds fast to the culture we have collectively committed to creating.Pillars of Purpose

And while words on paper are the first step, we’ve developed opportunities to demonstrate our pillars in action. These aren’t groundbreaking approaches, but they are done with intention and a focus to lift each other up. On Microsoft Teams, we have an entire channel dedicated to Staff Shout Outs where we can highlight staff in real-time as they meet our mission and live our Pillars. We take the time to celebrate our successes and, in our case, ring the cowbell. Any staff member is welcome to call a “Cheer-Thirty" to gather colleagues in our kitchen or on the porch, grab drinks out of the fridge and raise a glass to a job well done. And here is where the cowbell comes in; on really exciting occasions, the start of a Cheer-Thirty is announced by ringing our very own Community Foundation branded cowbell. It sounds silly, but it is a part of our culture, and we embrace all that makes us efficient, effective and engaged in our work.

We work hard, and as such, we need to intentionally plan for play. To emphasize work-life blend as part of our culture, we’ve implemented policies like flex schedules, five remote workdays a month and summer Fridays, where employees lengthen hours Monday through Thursday in order to take every other Friday off. We also intentionally plan time to step away from our desks and come together. We have a Fun Committee that plans social events. Every other month we have a staff potluck and think tank to discuss a timely topic or get to know one another better. At the beginning of the year, we cancel our typical staff meeting and the Leadership Team brings in breakfast to celebrate the success achieved and take a breath before doing it all over again.

It takes the whole team to create organizational culture. As the leader, it also falls on my shoulders to ensure I set the best example. I write personalized notes to each team member at least twice a year. I connect with each team member on their work anniversary, and I am committed to continuing to learn about each staff member’s language of appreciation as I seek to develop a team that feels valued and seen for all they do. Because, as I said, while we manage significant charitable assets, our people are the most valuable investment. We cannot do the work we do for donors, nonprofits and the community without each of the 29 other faces I’m proud to work with each day. We are better together.

The Greater Des Moines Partnership created the Workforce Trends and Occupancy Study (WTOS) Playbook in response to Greater Des Moines (DSM) workforce trends research that was conducted in partnership with Baton Global. The WTOS Playbook features insights related to the future of work in DSM, workforce suggestions for businesses in the region and local case study examples.

Kristi Knous

Kristi Knous serves as the President of the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines. Kristi is a Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy and a Fellow in Charitable Estate Planning. Kristi is responsible for carrying out the Community Foundation’s mission, oversees operations and provides leadership in identifying and addressing key community issues.