Adjusting the Camera Lens: Perspectives on Philanthropy

Adjusting the Camera Lens: Perspectives on Philanthropy

Posted on May 17, 2023 by Kellie Alexander, TPF Fellow 2022/24

Editor's Note: Kellie Alexander co-authors Beyond the Blog (BTB), an evolution of The Patterson Foundation's storytelling approach. Edition 4 is about why she is here: TPF's Advancing Philanthropic Leadership initiative. It showcases interviews with current and past fellows and looks into how the foundation has strengthened each, the value different perspectives can bring to the field of philanthropy, and future opportunities the Advancing Philanthropic Leadership initiative has to offer. Access Edition 4 of Beyond The Blog here.


A few years ago, I bought myself a Canon Rebel camera to capture travel, family portraits, and scenery. Since then, I have improved slowly through practice, but it has always been used more for fun. The settings can be tricky, and the lens is very delicate that even a slight change in humidity can cause it to fog over. Then once you take the photo and upload it, you can add edits with filters in Lightroom. It can be complicated but provides a beautiful form of artwork, and for me, it serves as an expression and enjoyable activity regardless of the outcome.

During a dinner with thoughtful TPFers, Debra Jacobs, Cheri Coryea, Beth Duda, Roxanne Joffe, and Rachel Ploss, we explored our personal definitions of words. Focus was one. Debra Jacobs shared that the word reminded her of a camera lens, with its shifting in and out while trying to get through the cloudiness and find the subject. This analogy spoke to me, and upon reflection, philanthropy can also be compared to a camera lens.

Philanthropy can be complicated. There are a lot of settings to sort through, and sometimes it’s pretty cloudy. However, there is also wonder and beauty from concentration and time. Philanthropy is multifaceted and often has many definitions. Each of us in the field has a story to tell -- why and how we found ourselves here, and why we stay. The challenges become opportunities, and we find ourselves shifting to find focus through conversations, relationships, and trust. I have done the same throughout the past few years with my photography. I’ve connected with those also capturing life through a camera lens, looked at resources by experts, and by trial and error, have learned a great deal. I still have a long way to go with my photos, and we in the field of philanthropy still have work to do to continue listening to our communities, placing focus on humanity, and getting through the cloudiness of a scarcity mindset. However, the joy is in the journey of life and learning – all while finding focus with each pixel.

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