Boyden not for profit expert, Wendy Wilsker, on the topic of allyship and life-long passion for social justice
This article was originally published by Allies in Action Membership Network™, a place for non people of color to unite in solidarity, taking action to champion, support and celebrate women of color in fundraising and philanthropy. Find the original article here.
How do you define allyship?
I believe that being an ally means standing arm and arm with someone. I think of the image of Martin Luther King Jr and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel walking arm and arm in Selma, Alabama. For me, being an ally is an extension of my Jewish values of “torah” learning and “tzedek” justice.
What three traits do you believe are essential to allyship?
Humility, curiosity, tenacity
What are your goals for allyship in 2022?
I’m a very goal-oriented person and love a deadline. But my goals for allyship are not limited to just the next year. Every action I am involved in as an ally needs to be sustainable for the long run. Every conversation I have with a leader or emerging leader of color is the beginning of a long-term relationship.
It may be that I present someone as a candidate for a job, perhaps I help them secure that job and then I believe it’s also my responsibility to be by their side as they grow and succeed. Every month we create new content in our company newsletter and we frequently speak at conferences. I serve on the board of my local chapter of Women in Development – everything I’m involved in creates an opportunity to amplify the voices of professionals of color and to advance equity in leadership across the non-profit sector.
From placing more fundraisers of color in leadership positions to ensuring greater diversity on the WID board, I have personal goals that I hope will have an impact on our collective goals. I’m a big believer in “BHAG”– “big, hairy, audacious goals”. If we are going to achieve our collective goals of inclusion, equity, diversity and belonging, we must be audacious and we must be in it for the long run!
What strategies has your company implemented to ensure your clients build inclusive teams and cultures of belonging?
We ask our clients a lot of questions about their DEI values, strategies and actions to achieve those goals. We ask questions about representation on teams, search committees and the populations they serve. And we ask tough questions about culture. If we observe something that doesn’t seem to be aligned with their goals, we draw attention to that. We offer Search Committees Unconscious Bias Training and also talk about the candidate experience for on-site interviews. We believe it is our responsibility to make sure that the values we are presenting to candidates are being lived by the organizations we serve.
What resources have you utilized to educate yourself about allyship?
I love learning from other people. Many of the books I have read during the past year have been recommended by WOC members or members of DEI Committees on organizations I am involved with. I have been listening to Kia Croom’s The Black Fundraisers podcast and find myself learning so much from Kia and her guests. Madam CJ Walker’s The Gospel of Giving by Tyrone McKinley Freeman was a transformative read for me.
Wendy Wilsker is Managing Partner at Boyden, a global executive search firm. Growing up in Westfield, NJ, Wendy remembers being involved in social justice causes through her synagogue youth group and community. She often found herself raising money if it was for the local food pantry or the MetroWest Jewish Federation’s Super Sunday.
During her time at Syracuse University, she worked as a Student Caller and Manager at Syracuse’s TeleFund and was Fundraising Chair of her sorority. It’s no wonder that she found herself working in fundraising just a few years out of college!
Throughout her professional career, Wendy has been responsible for building high performing teams, creating meaningful engagement opportunities for stakeholders, raising millions of dollars to achieve maximum impact and making life-changing connections between individuals and the causes that are meaningful to them.
Since 1993, Wendy has led development programs for educational, healthcare and social service agencies, most recently serving as Chief Advancement Officer for Jewish Family & Children’s Service in Boston. Wendy currently serves on the board of Women in Development of Greater Boston. She and her husband Michael reside in Westborough, MA in their “empty nest” with their Australian Shepard, Winnie.