Photo: Kellie Alexander at Foundations on the Hill 2023

Lessons from Foundations on the Hill 2023

Posted on April 14, 2023 by Kellie Alexander, TPF Fellow 2022/24
What role does philanthropy play in policy? What type of relationship can funders and legislation have? Why should a Fellow with The Patterson Foundation (TPF) attend Foundations on the Hill (FOTH)?

These questions swirled around my mind in the weeks leading up to the annual conference FOTH 2023 hosted by United Philanthropy Forum in partnership with the Council on Foundations and independent sector.

With guidance from Debra Jacobs and Philanthropy Southeast staff, I signed up for the three-day conference in Washington, D.C. I was skeptical at first. I didn't have an understanding of the benefit of public/private sector conversations as it relates to what philanthropy and government can talk about.

Following this experience, "on the Hill," I have a greater understanding of the importance of talking with legislation, what a collective voice can do for the field, and the support that humans have for one another.

We started early Monday morning with sessions on philanthropy's role in public policy, what the rise of populism means for the field, and some key talking points for the next two days of Hill meetings, including how we can collaborate, regional issues, and legislative focus on future bill opportunities such as The Charitable Act.

During FOTH, attendees can head to the Hill and talk with House and Senate representative office members. With an interest in and connection to the Carolinas (and attending with Philanthropy Southeast), I joined the North and South Carolina teams. I was welcomed with open arms and enthusiasm for my journey into philanthropy and my current position as a Fellow with TPF. Even being new to this experience and with many questions about the why, how, and what, I was encouraged to take part and speak at these meetings with representative members. It was humbling to be in a place of influence and representation as state teams shared the importance of their work for their communities.

Each meeting with members was different, but they shared the same interest and willingness to listen and learn how to better serve the communities they represent. Several meetings were happening for the second or even fifth year in a row -- showcasing the power of convening annually to grow a working and respectful relationship focused on shared understanding and aspirations. In each meeting, there was connection, sharing of contacts, and encouragement to keep in touch with the office to share what was happening on the ground.

This process initially worried me as I was unsure about my capabilities, understanding, and place. However, after talking with other foundation teams, connecting with legislative representatives, and attending a press conference announcing The Charitable Act, I understand philanthropy's important role in policy and how sectors can collaborate. This gave me a new sense of patriotism, and I'm grateful to have this experience and new connections.

Grateful to the Philanthropy Southeast staff, S.C. foundation team members, and N.C. team members for welcoming me, guiding me through the house, and sharing stories with me… Looking forward to seeing your future impact.

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