My introduction to philanthropy was through Marty and Julie Klaper, two South Carolina (formerly Indianapolis) philanthropists who funded a Jewish Studies fellowship I received while earning my degree at the Honors College at College of Charleston. Following the fellowship, the Klapers began mentoring me. They shattered my idyllic perception of the philanthropic sector. They taught me about “toxic charity,” exposed me to asset-based community development, showed me that not all nonprofits are effective, and instilled in me the importance of evaluation.
I brought this critical eye to my experience as a 6th-grade teacher through Teach For America in Tulsa, which in turn led me to co-found Tulsa Changemakers, a youth leadership development and action program. My co-founder and I started Tulsa Changemakers because we were struck by the juxtaposition that our students, as insiders, were well positioned to address challenges in their communities, yet we, as outsiders and newcomers to Tulsa, were the ones donors trusted to make a difference.
I became further aware of this misdirected trust in the philanthropic sector over seven years of nonprofit entrepreneurship and fundraising with Tulsa Changemakers.
I began to ponder.
Why don’t many nonprofits trust beneficiaries more or at least enough to listen to them? Why don’t many foundations trust nonprofits more, and what could both parties do to build and deepen trust with each other? How is this lack of trust limiting philanthropic impact?
These questions led me to apply for the M.A. in Philanthropic Studies at Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. Through the degree, I broadened and deepened my understanding of the philanthropic sector, had the opportunity to intern at a local foundation, and conducted two independent research studies on trust-based philanthropy, participatory grantmaking, and the relationships between nonprofits and foundations.
For my co-founder and I, it was always our goal to combat “founder’s syndrome” and set Tulsa Changemakers up to thrive without us. In the final year of our succession plan in 2022–2023, as I considered what I wanted to do next, I decided to investigate further how higher trust partnerships between nonprofits and funders could lead to increased philanthropic impact. I knew this would require working at a foundation that centers on trust. As soon I read “Change happens at the speed of trust” on The Patterson Foundation’s website, I had a feeling it was the right fit.
As a Fellow, I’m so excited to support TPF’s mission of strengthening the efforts of people, organizations, and communities by focusing on issues that address mutual aspirations, foster wide participation, and encourage learning and sharing. In doing so, I’m enthusiastic about the opportunity to learn from the incredible TPF family and ultimately take this experience back out into the philanthropic sector to help it drive even more impact.