Why Shared Values Matter at Work: Connecting Your People, Mission and Organization

It was our fourth interview that month. I described our supportive work environment to the candidate who replied, "That's exactly what your team said, too." Most every interview so far went the same way. I usually smiled and kept going. That day I paused. I thanked her for the feedback and mentally noted it for later. Yes, it was great that the team members and I all said the same genuine things about how we trust and support each other and that we have fun, but there was something more. We had always felt there was something special about our team dynamic, but others noticed it—even in a 30 minute interview.

During a trip to London a few days later, I kept thinking about the conversation. On the flight home, I quickly jotted down notes about who we are as a team. At the top I added a title called "Shared Values" and tucked the notes away in a folder. I landed with a renewed energy and looked forward to our team meeting the following week. 

At the team meeting, we discussed what it meant to have shared values and how we use them in practice. We refined the concepts and developed something that represented who we are, albeit in black and white printed text on a plain piece of paper. I let the team know I would look into reformatting and printing out copies for everyone. 

Later that day I stopped by a team member’s office to catch up and I noticed the document pinned on his wall. It struck me, even in draft form, our values statement was worthy of a spot on his wall. I scanned a few other staff offices and saw that every team member had them proudly on display. That was when I knew they were truly shared values. 

With thanks to our amazing design team at Wharton, we now have a visual representation of our shared values.

  • We are committed to being the best versions of ourselves.

Every day we make a choice to learn more, do more and be more, while acknowledging our strengths. It is reaffirming to know that when we give our best, so is everyone around us. 

  • We have high standards and support each other in achieving them.

The expectations are high in our workplace and we thrive in this environment. The highest standards we set are for ourselves, not goals that were given to us. We rely on each other for support, strategy and encouragement. 

  • We are competitive with ourselves and not with each other.

In many workplaces with financial expectations and outcomes, it is easy to focus on getting your individual numbers to be “better than” anyone else’s. We remind ourselves that our biggest competition is what we did yesterday; we believe we achieve more and greater things when we collaborate toward our goals, rather than compete. 

  • We recognize the importance of trust - with each other, with our donors and with ourselves.

So much of our success is due to trust. Because we trust each other, we are more authentically ourselves, we take smart risks and we achieve greater things as a collective than as individuals. Fundraising, too, is all about trust and our donors have to believe that we have their interests at heart as much as the institution has to believe that we will fulfill its priorities. We take very seriously our responsibility to the institution and our donors. To do any of this well, we must also trust in ourselves. This kind of trust does not mean you know everything, but you believe in your own capacity to succeed. Donors want to have a strategic partner in their philanthropy and we must be confident in our abilities and our mission. 

  • We believe in the value of constructive feedback.

We believe that feedback is a gift to be given often, thoughtfully and specifically – positive and constructive. To us, this means finding opportunities to recognize individual accomplishments, celebrating success as a group and showing gratitude daily. This also means being willing to offer differing opinions, propose suggestions for improvement and engage in crucial conversations. We believe in Kim Scott's concept of “radical candor” which means that we care enough about each other that we believe it is our responsibility to share feedback to help us be the best versions of ourselves. 

  • We know that we are more productive, more successful and have more fun when we work together. 


Why do shared values matter in fundraising?

Fundraising is so much more than numbers; it is about people. Like any industry, when you connect with people and know what drives and motivates them, the numbers will come. Having shared values reminds us to celebrate progress as well as outcomes. People know they will grow and be supported on their journey here. When people choose to move on to other organizations, it leaves a hole in our team and we are able to keep moving forward because we rely on our shared values in finding someone else great to join us. 

Why do shared values matter in management?

As the team leader, I believe these values clarify our commitments to each other and the organization. By having them clearly stated and visible, we are able to refer back to them as a “north star” guiding our actions. 

Each day I review the shared values as a reminder of how privileged I am to lead this team. When we are at our best, we remember how we got here. When we go through challenges, we have a foundation to keep us strong. When people look to join our team, we show them who we are and what we stand for. 

We have some interviews coming up for a new position on our team and I can’t wait to hear “That is exactly what your team said, too.” 

What are the shared values in your workplace? How do they guide your efforts? Does your team have a shared values statement?


With gratitude to our current team members for leading the way - Jennifer Hall, Vanessa Jackson, Alex Kremstein, Jinhee Lee, Danny Levi and Alex Unger - and to our past team members who shared these values. Special thanks to Justin Flax for the beautiful design.