Client Strategist Kasi Zieminski and Email Marketing Associate Maggie Carlson are members of Stelter’s DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion) Employee Resource Group. They’re joining us on the blog today to share how Stelter staff are lifelong learners—reading books, watching films and getting together for real talk on important issues.
How It Started
Kasi: I’ve been an avid reader since I was a kid. Growing up as an only child, I spent hours curled up with books. You can still follow my school syllabi on the overflowing shelves throughout my house. And a cozy bookstore or used book sale are among my happy places (for me, if not my bank account…)
In addition to my strategist role in the health vertical, I’ve also been serving with Stelter’s Wellness Committee and DEI Employee Resource Group (ERG). A hefty “to read” list began mentally stacking up for me, especially related to where these areas of work intersect.
As part of Stelter’s DEI framework, we help provide resources for folks along their personal and professional DEI journeys, from building awareness to deepening advocacy and activism. I thought a book club could be a great way for our colleagues to come together to continue exploring DEI and wellness topics connected to philanthropy and the nonprofit sector.
Maggie: One of my favorite parts of being involved with our ERG is going into research mode. I could easily spend hours curating diverse resources that support Stelter employees in exploring new ideas and progressing on their DEI journeys. But the way I’m wired, spending just 20 minutes focused on a single book can prove strenuous. I was really inspired by the way the book club opened up a dialogue on intersectional topics and wanted to find another avenue for people who aren’t avid readers to take part in that experience.
With so many thought-provoking films available to stream, I thought that could be a way to engage other neurodivergent folks like me. It could also be a great opportunity for our visual and auditory learners or those looking for a shorter time commitment. During an all-company meeting, I casually mentioned the idea of starting a DEI documentary club. There was resounding support in the group chat, then—as is an ERG member’s dream—a co-worker immediately reached out offering to help organize the club. (Thanks, Tricia!)
How It’s Going
Kasi: Each quarter, Stelter focuses internally on one vertical, one core value and two dimensions of wellness, so I tried to align our book selections with those quarterly themes. Folks can opt in each quarter or participate all year. We have a group Zoom chat to share related resources and stay in touch between discussion meetings. Audiobooks, podcasts, articles and even a potluck lunch complement our readings!
With local and remote staff, we either have hybrid meetings or gather via Zoom each quarter to talk about what we’ve read. So far, we’ve had fruitful conversations among 5-10 people in our meetings each quarter, with others reading along but unable to join for live discussions.
Maggie: We also aligned our film selections with Stelter’s quarterly themes. Each Zoom meeting starts with some quick communication tips for creating a safe space, followed by three breakout sessions to discuss key concepts. Our documentary selections have delved into complex issues that can be difficult to talk about. Whether having a deep connection to the content or learning about it for the first time, I’ve been so moved by the vulnerability, respect and empathy Stelter folks have shown.
Our sessions often leave us with more questions than answers. We send a collection of resources to keep the conversation going and inspire action. Resources include a deeper dive into the film’s themes, tips for allyship and advocacy, and a list of organizations big and small that are making a difference.
What Others Are Saying
Kasi: After our Q2 book club session, our colleague Nina noted that she appreciated “the thought-provoking facilitation” and “digestible discussion points—which I’m still thinking about today!”
Another colleague, Jenna, shared this summer: “I am LOVING these DEI discussions. I am so happy to work within a company culture that is taking the time to discuss and raise awareness around social issues…It can be really difficult to start these conversations and keep the engagement, and [the team has] done a fantastic job of handling these tough subjects with grace…I’m so excited to see what both groups have next, and to see how these groups grow.”
Maggie: We plan to continue both clubs next year, leaning into the quarterly themes and expanding our education with additional opt-in “lunch-n-learns” each quarter. Our goals include getting input on our book and film selections in advance and making sure those choices are inclusive and accessible. We’ll also try for even more intersection between the books and films, which has really enriched the experience for those of us participating in both groups. And we’re actively seeking ways to gather feedback and engage more members from diverse backgrounds and interests to help shape the future of our clubs.
Why It Matters
Kasi: Working in marketing and fundraising, you know a good story can change hearts and minds much more than statistics, facts and figures. Alongside the work we do partnering with our clients and their donors to tell transformative stories, we appreciate being able to read, watch and discuss powerful stories with our colleagues that have the potential to transform us as marketers and fundraisers—and as fellow humans.
Love a good club? We’d love to have you! Download our guide to get all the details about the books and films in our curriculum. Then review, read, watch, listen—and share your thoughts in the comment section below—and be sure to share what you are reading or watching. We welcome the recommendations and conversation!