Photo: Hannah Saeger Karnei

An Evangelist, Tumbled Rock, Fellow, and Grateful Human

Posted on September 29, 2021 by Hannah Saeger Karnei, Inaugural TPF Fellow

In December of 2018, the world was a very different place than it is today in the fall of 2021. Had you told me while I was working diligently on my application to be a part of the inaugural class of The Patterson Foundation's Fellows Program that we would be faced with countless natural disasters, an escalating fight for social justice, an eroding of democracy, and a global pandemic, I'm sure I would have told you that you were being dramatic and that I didn't have time to think about that -- I was doing important things. Or, perhaps more critical to me at the time, I was plotting a path forward to important things.

The application required two essay questions, the second being: Why are you the best person to be a member of the TPF Fellows Program's inaugural class? And my response began with:
The first class of Patterson Foundation fellows should be evangelists for strategic philanthropy. I imagine an evangelist needs to have passion for their mission, but also a willingness to learn; strong communication skills; a robust understanding of marketing; a comfort with collaboration; and a willingness to give and receive feedback. As a founding member of the Fellows Program, an evangelist will also need to be flexible, a critical thinker, and have an empathetic level of emotional intelligence.

I distinctly remember sitting at my parents' kitchen counter at Christmas arguing with my dad over if "evangelist" was a dangerous word to use in an application essay and defending my staunch belief that if they didn't "get it" that I meant spreading the good word of strategic philanthropy, I wasn't meant to work with The Patterson Foundation (TPF) anyway.

I'm here, writing this final blog more than two years later, so clearly, they understood. But more importantly, The Patterson Foundation team recognized that my passion and vision could be cultivated and directed towards the greatest good.

Over the thousands of learning opportunities I've had as inaugural fellow at TPF, there hasn't been a single one that hasn't helped me grow, evolve, or strengthen. I like to think of the TPF fellowship and its twists and turns like a rock tumbling machine. Each challenge, lesson learned, and person I've made contact with throughout my time as a TPF Fellow has smoothed a jagged edge, polished an imperfection. I'm still the same rock as when I arrived in May 2019, but I've been tumbled into a better version of myself. Same convictions, more empathy, more bravery, more strategy.

It's time for my chapter as inaugural fellow at The Patterson Foundation to close. Just as I'm looking forward to doing more important things with another organization who "gets it," I know that a part of me will always be the first TPF Fellow. But now, it's up to future fellows to decide how to take what started with me, make the most of their opportunity to be evangelists for the future of philanthropy, and champion a new brand of philanthropic leaders.

For those that have championed me, held my hand, and lifted me up on this unexpected journey, thank you. Just like we never could have predicted where global events would take us, none of us knew what being a fellow would look like. I'm happy to say, whether you want to be an evangelist for philanthropy, a rock tumbling around getting shiny, or just a human grateful for amazing opportunities -- being part of the TPF family is an invaluable experience.

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