Career Pathways: Learning in Dallas

Just before the Annual Conference, the Career Pathways cohort met up in Dallas for our next session. Here’s what we did during these three days of learning, sharing, and growth.

We went all-in right from the start. On the first day, the cohort gathered in a circle to share stories of self-care, personal celebration, promotion, and work/life balance. By now, we were friends reuniting in a familiar space, which enabled us to talk freely about taking risks, seizing opportunities, and navigating our careers as women, people of color, and/or allies focused on DEI.

Our first provocative conversation about leadership featured guest speaker Ben Francisco Maulbeck, President of Funders for LGBTQ Issues. He told poignant stories revealing three important lessons:

  1. Under the right circumstances, funders can use their position to help smaller organizations in significant ways.
  2. Funders possess a structural privilege that can be extremely harmful when it goes unchecked, and;
  3. Tapping into diverse personal networks leads to culturally competent local community assets that are a dynamic force for good.

Our second day kicked off guest speaker Flozell Daniels, Jr., CEO and President of the Foundation for Louisiana, communicating his vision for philanthropy with profound clarity and resonance: “Philanthropy has a unique responsibility to make up for the divide that was created by the very means through which that wealth was created.”

We spent our final morning hearing from three highly effective leaders, all of whom were former Career Pathways fellows! Our featured guests were Tonya Allen, President and CEO of The Skillman Foundation, Craig Drinkard, Associate Director of Operations for the Victoria Foundation, and Kenneth M. Jones, II, Vice President, Finance and Administration of The Annie E. Casey Foundation.

When asked about what was keeping them up at night, our speakers reflected on the fact that we as a field still move at a snail’s pace and are ill-equipped to face or drive federal policy changes. They pointed out that if philanthropy aligns itself with partisan allies, we risk losing engagement with a broader calling to uphold democracy.

Our guests spoke of the need for more philanthropic risk taking and new ways of deploying money. Mr. Jones shared that foundations have millions of dollars to deal with trillion dollar issues, while Ms. Allen added that we need to think about all the capital at our disposal: money, influence, convening, reputational, social, human…and everything in between. They advised us to check our hubris, as philanthropic leaders tend to think a $50,000 grant wields power over a local mayor or superintendent. 

This latest meeting of the cohort left me inspired and optimistic about philanthropy – and the landscape that awaits each of us committed to the field.

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