How Do You Define Organizational Culture?

At Community Foundation Santa Cruz County, we define organizational culture as the set of values and beliefs that guide our actions and behavior.

We acknowledge that every company and every nonprofit have components of culture that hold the organization back and components that move the organization forward. We think of these components as headwinds and tailwinds. As a new CEO, I am fortunate to have had time with many of you blog readers and other community members during my first nine (!!) months serving the Foundation. Your candor, your optimism and your belief in the importance of the Foundation have given me insight into how our culture can serve as a headwind and the ways that our culture has been a welcome wind in our community’s sails.

Our staff and Board want you to have an outstanding experience with your community’s Foundation and so we take the question of values seriously. What organizational values will drive our work? Following months of discussion in the community and in our office, our Board recently adopted the following values:

We unite people through generosity and are passionate about helping Santa Cruz County residents to accomplish great things and to help our community thrive. There are three values-driven actions we prize most highly in our collective effort to create a future that we can be proud of:

We work towards solutions

We accelerate solutions to community issues and support programs that enrich the lives of county residents.

We Build Trust

We earn trust through integrity, accountability, discretion, transparency, prudence, and extraordinary service.

We Advance Opportunity

We leverage our resources toward a future that is just, equitable and inclusive of our diverse community.

We also set a course to make changes in our practices to reflect these values and create stronger partnerships. The Board also adopted the following principles for our grant making to guide the work ahead of us:

To be an effective partner in creating solutions, we commit to the following principles as a grantmaker:

  1. Fund for Impact: Fund organizations that measure progress against impactful and defined goals.
  2. Fund Sufficiently: Leverage and consolidate funds, and co-invest over multiple years for long-term success.
  3. Fund for Organizational Effectiveness: Support requests that move organizations forward with their operating goals.
  4. Be a Partner: Create open, collaborative relationships and respond to requests without excessive requirements or bureaucracy.
  5. Reward Success: Fund Trusted Performers who continually show measurable impact in the community.
  6. Support Innovation: Welcome Creative Solvers who have new approaches to existing issues.
  7. Demonstrate Flexibility: Adjust to changing conditions and respond to disasters with support for Rapid Responders.

I welcome hearing from you. Do these values and grantmaking principles increase the wind in our sails to help the community thrive? Your ongoing feedback will help continually guide our culture and ensure that we have what we need to unite people through generosity and help accomplish great things for our county.

Written by

Susan True

In her role as Chief Executive Officer of Community Foundation Santa Cruz County, Susan continues her lifelong commitment to work that improves lives and strengthens communities. Contact her at 831.662.2010 or email