Philanthropy, at large, is a burgeoning variety of strategies for community innovation, investment, and a true love for people and the world we live in. Coming from Alaska and a place-based family foundation, I find this larger world enticing and responsive to the innovative partnerships that we need to enrich our non-profit landscape. The philanthropic world is more removed from politics and corporate influence than any other sector I’ve ever worked in, and yet, the road to leadership for minorities and people of color can be illogical, invisible, and precarious. There aren’t many examples in our community of this kind of movement, and we are often excluded from leadership in a field which serves our communities of origin. I see Career Pathways as a map to leadership opportunities, which gives us the training, networks, and insights for growing into leadership roles in philanthropy.
During our first convening in January, we shared our stories and I was startled by the unveiling of strengths, attributes, and positive elements about me and my peers revealed by our work-related stories. I shared my story of taking philanthropic leaders to small villages in Alaska using my innate ability to create understanding between vastly different cultures, income classes, and physical geography. We were also introduced to our executive coaches and learned of the benefits and rigors of authentic coaching relationships. We brought our first day to an end at Mercy Care Atlanta where we learned about their efforts in providing care to Atlanta’s homeless and got our hands “clean” stuffing hygienic care packages for homeless medical clients.
On the second day after panicky news about the earthquake in Alaska and an anticipated 30-50 foot tsunami, we were immediately launched into Leadership Styles and Strategies with Janine Lee (President and CEO, Southeastern Council of Foundations). She answered many questions about working with organizational leadership by demonstrating personal strength and confidence, and the need for honesty and authenticity. She talked about how she supports the people who work for her, whom she has learned to value highly from her own negative experiences with former well-intentioned managers, and to treat her employees with respect, consideration, and appreciation.
On our final day, Sam Pettway, President of Boardwalk Consulting, and Imlay Foundation Executive Director, Robert Smulian facilitated an enlightening discussion about recruitment, the best ways to present yourself, how to build a strong network, and ways to look for the best fit in leading organizations. In our final exercise, we all commented on the diversity of our group and how much we already cared for one another after such a short time, building a deep trust that takes years in most organizations. We learned methods to look outside our comfort zones to potentially lead organizations well suited to our individual strengths and personalities.
The program is brilliant! I was struck by how all our work was presented in a way that was emotional, invigorating, and straightforward. We bonded through a promise to empower ourselves to improve our lives once we’re back serving our communities with the tools we will gain.