January Newsletter | Keeping Humanity First Through People & Culture

Deaconess Community,

As Deaconess has adopted a new strategic framework, we are intentionally reflecting on how each of our practices and policies are interwoven into our strategic aspiration of reaching liberation in seven generations.

Deaconess as an organization must interrogate our own hearts as reflected in our internal practices and processes to make sure that we are not perpetuating much of the harm that we seek to ameliorate. Our organization, although rooted in faith, functioned for decades as a corporate health system. In recent years we have sought to shift culture by committing to equity.

We acknowledge that this is a process, and though we are not perfect, we are committed to correcting course as we evolve. We hope other organizations will be inspired to join us in our commitment to equity from the inside out.


Our strategy does not matter if we do not have the right organizational culture.

As an expressed commitment to embedding pursuing equity and holding ourselves accountable, in 2022 we adopted the Racial Equity Committee for our Board of Trustees as one of three standing committees in our governance structure. The Racial Equity Committee is tasked with discerning and articulating equitable policy and practices within the organization, and working with the CEO in developing, overseeing, and monitoring policies, practices, and procedures aligned with the Foundation’s commitment to racial equity.


As we developed a new strategic framework, we articulated a goal to center Deaconess’ approach to equity and how it applies to People & Culture.

A key part of our strategy includes building beloved community. Through intentional undoing and unlearning of internal practices and processes rooted in white supremacist culture, our goal is to create a more anti-racist, intersectional, equitable and democratic workplace. This mirrors the ways Deaconess shows up in community. Through this approach, we believe we will attract and retain talented team members who are better positioned to bring about our goal of liberation in seven generations.


We acknowledged that words have power and that using terms like human capital or human resources strips our team members of their humanity.

We renamed our function within the organization to People & Culture rather than Human Resources. Moreover, we want our colleagues doing this work to move beyond the “transactional” (payroll, recruiting and hiring, etc.) to become an essential part of building culture through relationships and fostering a beloved community.


We have begun interrogating our practices and processes that perpetuate harm.

We ask key questions like:

  • “How often should our employees be paid?”
  • “Do our benefits work for everyone?”
  • “Are our hiring practices just?”

So far, answering those questions has led to immediate steps such as:

  • Opting for paying colleagues bi-weekly in lieu of twice a month (shifting from 24 times a year to 26 times a year) which helped our employees with their personal cash flow.
  • Surveying and discussing our benefits package with our team members which led to adopting vision coverage and vesting employees sooner in our 403b plan.
  • Providing stipends to candidates for in-person interviews to compensate for individuals who take time off of work when job seeking.

We then asked “Who is disproportionately affected by our paid leave policies?” In answering this question we identified key inequities in policy and solutions to rectify them which include:

  • Broadening the definition of family beyond the traditional nuclear family model to include anyone who had served as either a parent or child whether biological or cultural. This allowed full-time team members to take paid family leave.
  • Introducing flexible paid time-off, giving our exempt team members the ability to take the time they need for rest or to care for family regardless of their role or how long they have been with the organization.
  • Recommending that each team member take at least 15 days off each year so that employees can take advantage of this benefit.
  • Acknowledging that some organizations implement flexible time-off to avoid paying out lump settlements when the colleague leaves the organization. Therefore, our policy allows team members to receive additional pay based on how long they worked at the organization so they could take a break before starting a new job.


We also want to create a structure that allows us as a team to discuss attributes of a white supremacist culture within Deaconess, and to amplify the antidotes to those elements within our culture which include:

  • Bi-monthly racial caucuses where individuals self-identify as either a member of the global majority or as people raised white to discuss these elements to constructively explore these issues. The process allowed us to face our own biases, identify ways that we have been coded into an oppressive system, and note how those actions or beliefs strip each employee of their full humanity.
  • Engaging with the nonprofit Forward Through Ferguson to do a racial equity assessment of our organization. The assessment included surveys of current Board members and current staff to identify overlooked areas of our culture. We disaggregated the data so that we could evaluate the responses of our stakeholders by race.

From the racial equity assessment, we were able to identify additional practices such as making sure that our commitment to racial equity is a part of every onboarding process for new team members and trustees. We are now in the process of creating formal structures based on recommended practices from the racial equity assessment so that our commitment becomes innate and remains beyond any of our tenures.

Our region and Deaconess Foundation has been at the forefront of the national dialogue on expanding racial equity. We hope that our internal journey from an organization rooted in traditional philanthropy to its work today reflects our commitment to equity in all facets of the organization.

In service to the will of the Spirit and the mission,

Matt Oldani, Vice President Operations, Deaconess Foundation
Casey Peetz, Executive Assistant to the President & CEO, Office Manager, Deaconess Foundation

Read the full January newsletter here.