I was a member of the third class of diversity fellows. I value many things about the fellowship. My top two are the structured opportunities for reflection and learning and the access the fellowship provided to the philanthropic field overall, a tremendous support network, and numerous growth opportunities.
The reflection started during the fellowship application process. Checking the “Asian American/Pacific Islander” box was the first time I provided my ethnicity with hopes that I would gain something in return. Because of this and my “diversity fellow” title, I utilized some of my time to explore what it means to be a first-generation Filipino American and part of a broad Asian community.
These reflective moments allowed time to look at what I was learning and better understand how diversity impacts our view of the world and the problems philanthropy aims to solve. It also led to my involvement with Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy. As Boston chapter co-chair, I have further developed my voice and become a community leader.
What values do I want to uphold in my philanthropic practice? How do these values coincide with the organization I work with? As a busy professional, there is often no time to ask or answer these questions. However, they are crucial to being intentional and making actions more efficient and effective. This reflection, coupled with a supportive network, has proven invaluable as I continue to navigate these nuanced philanthropic waters.
I knocked on philanthropy’s door for two years before the fellowship. I was starting to believe that my experience-as a project manager at for-profit companies and working with nonprofit organizations, including a stint as executive director of a small soup kitchen-was not what philanthropy needed.
I soon found out that my inability to get into the field was not about lack of value, but rather lack of access. I needed entry into a field built on relationships and to be positioned in a way that allowed me to fully contribute my intelligence, skills, and experience. Fast forward 2 1/2 years and I think I’ve already added value to the field. For example, I am able to answer my colleagues random questions about philanthropy (such as, What is the payout rule?) because the fellowship provided this knowledge.
Now as a site supervisor, I have the pleasure of ushering another fellow into this amazing field. I also expand my own skills as a mentor and manager and get to ask the tough questions: What type of philanthropic professional do you want to be? What does it mean to be “diverse” in a field that often lacks diversity? What part do you want to play in solving some of our city and country’s most intractable problems? The fellowship gave me answers to all of this, plus so much more.
Jessica del Rosario is a program officer at the Boston Foundation (a member of the Council on Foundations) and a 2009-2010 Proteus Diversity Fellow.