I recently had the opportunity to represent The Patterson Foundation (TPF) as I traveled to Indianapolis to visit the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy (LFSOP). It wasn’t my first trip to the area, as I had attended various professional national organization gatherings at the Indiana Convention Center during my previous career in higher education. Other than the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the home to the NCAA National Office, and the numerous professional and collegiate sports teams, I was unaware of the vibrant fine and performing arts venues, diverse one-of-a-kind museums, and a central Canal Walk. As for educational institutions, everyone is probably aware of the various Indiana University schools and programs in Indianapolis. But on this visit, I was introduced to the world’s first school dedicated solely to the study and teaching of philanthropy.

What a privilege to become acquainted first-hand with a higher education institution’s mission that is focused on increasing the understanding of global philanthropy and generosity through multidisciplinary research, transformational education, professional development, professional practices, and engagement. Truly a perfect fit with an innovative and educational enterprise for TPF to seek and collaboratively develop an Advancing Philanthropic Leadership (APL) initiative!

Soon after commencing my consulting role with the APL initiative in the beginning months of 2023, I knew it would be beneficial for me to become better acquainted with LFSOP and planned from the outset to visit the campus. Having the opportunity to meet in person those professionals who are helping to write student success stories, speaking with undergraduate and graduate students, and conversing with the school’s leaders regarding its emphasis on growing education and professional programming was downright inspirational.

Over several days, under the gracious and detailed assistance from Pamela Larsen-Clark, the Assistant Director for Enrollment and Student Success, as well as the office of Dean Amir Pasic, I was provided the opportunity to attend classes and engage in one-on-one discussions with teaching faculty and individual students. These knowledge-sharing opportunities percolated new ideas and pathways that could build upon diversifying student interest in TPF’s Fellows Program, expand Nonprofit Internship Program participants, and spawn new co-teaching LFSOP electives. As The Fund Raising School continues to invest in new and updated curricula and partners with TPF, the Fueling Dynamic Fundraising (FDF) initiative will positively support improvements to Suncoast nonprofit fundraising practices.

Additionally, the LFSOP DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion) 2022–2023 Strategic Plan is demonstrating successful outcomes that may also impact and expand more collaborative programming opportunities. Most importantly, I witnessed an enthusiastic and intentional willingness to continue and enhance the TPF/LFSOP partnerships as we celebrate our five-year collaboration this year.

An example of the building of “connective tissue” between our organizations, as well as a highlight of the trip, was the induction of Debra Jacobs as a new member of the school’s Board of Visitors (BOV). Meeting the present BOV members and the qualifications even to be considered as a candidate, this is definitely a “Who’s Who” of philanthropic leaders. What an opportunity for our TPF community to have Debra involved with this group!

As a result of this visit, I discovered that new frontiers in professional development are on the horizon. I am confident that the collaborative efforts of TPF/LFSOP to catalyze innovations to strengthen people, organizations, and communities around the world will be realized.

With joyful stewardship, I believe the Advancing Philanthropic Leadership initiative will be heralded as a model program for other philanthropic organizations for years to come.

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