Board Happenings: Our Recent Fall Retreat

By Jo DeBolt, Together Women Rise Board Chair

During the first weekend of October, the Together Women Rise Board of Directors met in Charlotte to reflect on our past and plan for the future, especially as we approach our 20th anniversary next year. We came armed with data on our grant making, chapter development, participation in programs and events, and responses from the recent member survey. We started, though, with stories. Over dinner on our first night, Co-Founder Barb Collins shared stories of several early grantees. Some of these grantees went on to gain significant recognition and extended their work far beyond what they originally imagined might be possible.  It reminded us that we don’t spend enough time learning from the relationships we’ve built and celebrating their successes. It’s fuel for the soul. 

On Friday, we looked at our three “pillars” – community building, learning, and giving – and dug into questions about growth and impact. We considered how we define and can expand our community and create greater understanding and awareness of issues confronting women and girls. We looked at ways to increase our grant making investments and build deeper, equitable relationships across the Global South based on our shared commitment to gender equality. In each of those conversations we considered how to increase our diversity, be more inclusive, and incorporate equity in all we do.

We recognized that we have a strong foundation on which to build and opportunities to grow.  We outlined board goals for 2023, as well as longer-term goals that we will work on over several years. Some of those goals are about board operations. We have a large network of talented women involved with Rise, and we’d like to tap that talent by involving more of you on committees and on the board. Like all good boards, we analyze our gaps and needs. We are committed to adding three to five new board members, especially women of color whose voices are under-represented. We also have the need for several board members with financial/accounting and business expertise to give us a deeper bench in that area and to serve on our finance committee.

During our Saturday board meeting, we approved our first Transformation Partnership (which you can learn more about in this newsletter) and reviewed a report from grant consultants engaged earlier this year as the final step in the Grants Reimagining project begun in early 2020. The world of philanthropy and giving circles has changed significantly over the past 10 plus years (as have we) and we wanted to learn from experience. We asked the consultants to make recommendations to simplify processes, create greater transparency for everyone, and to pace the application process to allow grassroots organizations with lean staffs to be successful in the application process. We also considered their recommendations around making more multi-year commitments to the organizations we fund and providing more explicit information on the criteria being used in evaluating requests. We accepted those recommendations, and asked our CEO Beverley Francis-Gibson to come back to the board with a timeline and plan for implementation.

There will be more to come on all of these topics, including a series of board webinars to share information and hear from you. In the meantime, if you are interested in learning more about serving on board committees or becoming a board member, please contact Jo DeBolt, our Board Chair, at