Hi again blog readers,
Since I posted last week, I have had a few awesome experiences in just a short time. Tuesday and Wednesday last week were consumed by the 2010 Michigan Nonprofit Superconference hosted by the Michigan Nonprofit Association. I went to quite a few workshops, many focused around innovation and social media in the nonprofit world. Doug Stewart (my boss) was on the panel for one of the sessions and he gave his insights on navigating the program officer relationship and the role of family foundations in Michigan nonprofits. I know I am biased, but he was definitely the best one on the panel because he was clear, concise and got important points across to the audience of development professionals. It was interesting to listen to his advice to small organizations when they are establishing a relationship with a foundation and the foundation says no to a grant proposal (funding request). He encouraged them to follow up with the foundation to keep the relationship open for the future, but once they have confirmed that they do not want to invest in your current project, do not ask them again that year to contribute to your project. Just something to keep in mind as you development professionals grow to be directors of your own small organizations. I really enjoyed meeting a ton of fundraising professionals while I was there including some influential leaders in Michigan like Kyle Caldwell, the President & CEO of MNA and Rob Collier, President & CEO of the Council of Michigan Foundations. And, Katelyn Videto (D-SIP Class ’09) was there working for the CMF closely with Rob Collier, so it was cool to reconnect with one of my fellow D-SIP alum. I’m starting to see how much the program had an effect on all of us. D-SIP Class 2010 – I believe you all will eventually get a chance to meet Rob Collier sometime during your program, so be on the lookout.
I also was fortunate enough to get a ticket yesterday to Michelle Obama’s event downtown Detroit on mentorship and the city of Detroit. There was a great panel of people who contributed to the event by speaking on great mentors in their own lives. The panel included Magic Johnson,
Spike Lee, and the wife of the owner of the Red Wings, Marian Ilitch just to name a few. It was blisteringly hot outside, but the event was great and I think the students at Wayne State as well as everyone else on Adam’s Field were inspired to continue to work hard, but give back to others in their Detroit community. It’s unbelievable I saw President Obama live at my commencement ceremony at U-M, but also saw The First Lady less than a month later!
So while I’m having these great experiences outside of the office, I am working hard on research for the foundation as well. One of my projects right now involves researching giving opportunities in major metros around the U.S. that are financially detailed (transparent budgeting), as well as involved in the impact areas related to the Fisher Foundation. I am tasked with synthesizing these giving opportunities outlined by various community organizations who are getting the best results and making a true impact in strengthening youth and families, early childhood development, Jewish issues (local and abroad), HIV/AIDS research, education, arts & culture, as well as the city of Detroit and the economy. This effort is important to other major family foundations in America who have significant financial resources so that they can make quick, well-researched, and actionable funding decisions. It will allow them to collaborate with other family foundations with shared values in giving to relevant organizations with impoverished budgets. It is an awesome project because it will allow me to learn more and more about specific issues in philanthropy and development important to the Fisher Foundation, discuss these issues with other development professionals in the family foundation arena of philanthropy, expand my professional skills as I interact with veteran leaders in the development world, as well as increase my interest in philanthropy and a career in development.
I know this is a long blog, but I have to take time at the end just to mention the man I work for, Doug Stewart. We’ve joked this week about what I’m going to be writing on this blog and how I’m going to bad mouth him, but that is literally impossible to do. I have only been here for about 2 weeks, and Doug has impressed me tremendously in that short time. He is an amazing person and excellent at interacting with every development professional and fundraiser he comes in contact with as the Executive Director of the Fisher Foundation. I really look up to his ability to engage others in the foundation’s mission, to multitask (in the most true form of the word) on several projects at once, to maintain strong professional relationships with several partners outside of the foundation (as he is co-chairing and a board member for several nonprofit community organizations), to help develop the careers of his staff, and to make everyone feel a part of the team (especially me as a summer program associate). He is truly remarkable and I’m not just saying this because I think he’s going to read my blog (he’s told me he won’t unless I want him to ), but he has inspired me to develop a passion for the foundation and its causes, while focusing on being an influential leader in my career (wherever I go next). The program has really only just begun, and I already know I will be dramatically affected by my time spent here.