The Building Blocks of a Philanthropic Career

I entered the field of philanthropy through a theological framework. With idealism guiding my path, I started a journey in search of a meaningful and purposeful vocation. Because of my commitment to social justice, civic engagement, and community development, I enrolled in a dual-degree master’s program that combined urban policy and divinity. The program was designed to create more leaders like UN Ambassador Andrew Young and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who allowed their faith to empower them in the civic arena. 

As I embarked on this career journey, I quickly recognized the complexity of gender in my career choice.  Seeing me struggle to make sense of future professional opportunities, my mentor suggested I look to philanthropy. After doing research, I got excited about the possibility of becoming a program officer and began to pursue philanthropic opportunities.

Entering the field proved to be quite the challenge. After many attempts, the closest I came to philanthropy was working as a convener on a W. K. Kellogg grant in the Boston area. This was a great experience that gave me a glimpse into the field. As a Proteus Fund Diversity Fellow, I now have a deeper understanding of philanthropy. My previous work experience, in conjunction with my role as a fellow, has allowed me to deepen my commitment to civic engagement, policy, social justice, racial equity, and yes, faith.

“What is it that the Creator requires of you: to do justice, love kindness, and to walk humbly?” This is a spiritual quote that guides me personally as well as professionally. For the most part, loving kindness is something that most people can gather around. Giving to the less fortunate and helping people in need captures the imagination of philanthropy. There’s something about knowing how a gift can transform someone’s life that’s compelling. In a complex world, this has its place. However, understanding why communities and individuals are in need and how one’s implicitness in systems that create our global network is where “doing justice and walking humbly” enters the philanthropy conversation for me.

As a Proteus Fund Diversity Fellow, I have had the opportunity to explore complex issues such as these. The fellowship gives me the opportunity to understand the complexity of the world in which we do philanthropy. Through experiential learning, academic rigor, and of course conducting proper due diligence, the Proteus Fund Fellowship is allowing me to develop a professional framework that will lay a solid foundation for my career in the philanthropic sector.

Manikka L. Bowman is the 2011-2012 Proteus Fund Diversity Fellow.  


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