Much has been said over the last four or so decades about why organizations should be values-driven and how to recognize one that is. If you’ve ever flown with Southwest Airlines, you know from the first public announcement that one of the organization’s guiding values is fun. That’s because Southwest is a value-driven company, and their values guide who they hire, staff behavior, and how they treat customers. As a result, they famously survived the most recent economic downturn in the U.S.
How does being values-driven apply to helping the most vulnerable people around the world?
At Food for the Hungry, we believe that organizational health is derived from what we value. Getting there takes more than just writing down a bunch of great-sounding words. An organization’s values must drive the culture, strategies, and decision making. We see it in the impact we have on children in some of the world’s hardest places. When children are thriving, then FH values are apparent.
God Called Us
Together we follow God’s call responding to human suffering and graduating communities from extreme poverty.
Research shows that two things converge in effective organizations: employees’ personal values (or calling) and the organization’s values and direction. From its beginning in 1971, Food for the Hungry leadership has known that we hire people who God called to make a lasting difference in the world.
This calling shows up in the lives of people like Data Isaac Milton, with us for almost a decade as the HR manager in our South Sudan operations. War has plagued his country for most of his life. He even experienced life as a refugee because of violence in his own country. The Food for the Hungry calling (also known as vision or purpose) inspired him to answer God’s call to help the kinds of suffering people he has known and been. (You can read his story here.)
The convergence also is evident in people like Beth Allen, who currently manages FH’s communications efforts in the U.S. office but started her time at FH as self-supported staff in Bolivia — her answer to God’s call to make a difference. One conversation with Beth is like the PA announcement on Southwest Airlines. She reveals her calling and dedication to helping the most vulnerable with each encounter. (See her story here.)
How, Then, Are We Values-Driven?
In the many years I’ve been a part of Food for the Hungry — as donor, a church partner, a board member, and now as the President and CEO — I’ve participated in many conversations about what values reflect our calling to end poverty in the lives of the world’s most vulnerable people. While the way we express those values is adapted to different settings, their essence remains the same. As a values-driven organization, these are the values that guide us as we hire staff, when we make decisions, and as we nurture the culture within our offices.
We follow Jesus. (Work like ours requires a deep, soul-level transformation.)
Our work is relational. (Our work requires healthy relationships with the people with whom we work, partner, and serve.)
We invest wisely and focus on results. (Our work requires us to steward God’s Kingdom and the resources we receive.)
We serve with humility. (Our work recognizes that all people have dignity.)
We pursue beauty, goodness, and truth. (Our impact is evidenced in this value.)
I’d like to focus on the value of pursuing beauty, goodness, and truth because it’s aspirational for us. We believe it captures the heartbeat of God, defines who we are, aligns with our overall vision to follow God’s call, and guides us as we decide what we’re to be doing. It inspires and energizes our employees worldwide. When I see it in the fields where we serve, I know we’re making a difference.
Evidence of Beauty, Goodness, and Truth
In my recent Christmas message, I referred to three instances that showed me evidence of beauty, goodness, and truth. Each confirmed to me that God is in control, and that gives me hope for the people we serve. When I see a woman sweeping around her front door, beside a beautiful flower with which she decorates her tiny dwelling in an urban slum, I see someone who has hope for her future and for her children. I see a woman who understands the truth that she has value because she was made in the image of God. She has found beauty, goodness, and truth.
Finding Unity and Commitment
Our values have proven to be true and uniting. Our worldwide common values have built a level of increased commitment and resolve. They make it easy for us to decide to take on hard tasks when we go to some of the world’s hardest places. Whether we’re in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the U.S., Canada, or Europe, we know we have each other’s back because we know what we stand for.
It reminds me of when my father would tell my three younger brothers and me, “We are the Edmonds family. This is how an Edmonds conducts himself.” We siblings knew the character traits, ethics, and values our parents expected from us. It was the heartbeat of our family.
Similarly, values of FH say clearly to staff, donors, and partners, “We are FH. This is how FH and FH people conduct themselves.” That is what motivates, inspires, gives us resolve, enhances commitment, and builds unity.
Like None Other
When I talk with donors and staff, I consistently hear how their association with FH has changed them. They are so changed by the holistic philosophy and work of FH that they seek it in other aspects of their lives. One person recently told me how difficult it was to find a church home after working with FH overseas for a time because they sought a church with a holistic approach to life. This person’s life is transformed on a soul-level, just as we seek to transform the lives of vulnerable people on a soul level so lies can no longer trap them in poverty.
Does your heart beat with the passion to graduate entire communities from extreme poverty? You can join us in this calling. Learn about and pray for a special person in need or a people group. Give a donation. Sponsor a child.