In April of 2019, Courtney Baugh (M.A./M.P.A. ‘19) and I presented at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy Board of Visitors lunch about The Patterson Foundation Fellows Program. Courtney had decided to take a great opportunity with CCS Fundraising, and I had decided to accept the offer to become the inaugural Fellow at The Patterson Foundation (TPF).

There was, I think, some interest from the Board in the program but even more interest in the decision-making process around accepting the opportunity or not. On the slide I presented about my perception of what would make being a TPF Fellow a successful career move was the following:

  • Immersive learning experience in private funding organization
  • Professional development, networking, and mentorship
  • Commitment to detail and support
There was some ambiguity around what a Fellow would actually do and some frustration when a concrete answer wasn’t provided during the interview process. But the reasoning behind the ambiguity is part of what makes the fellowship so powerful – the work depends on you. What are your skills, your interests, your strengths, and how can they contribute to powerful work being done?

Debra Jacobs, CEO & President of TPF, shared in an early one-on-one meeting with me a helpful philosophy for determining your capacity when someone asks you to do something. Is it just more? Is it something different? Is it something better? Does something need to be removed to make it possible?

More, different, better, less.

When I reflect on the fellowship so far, it’s not just about the work. Who are the people, what’s the environment, how do you feel about the decisions that lead you to where you are, and where the path is leading you? For me, the absolute privilege of being the inaugural fellow at TPF is the intangibles.

I have worked with great people before. Passionate people. Fun people. I have never worked with a group of people so invested in the success of their team and their community. You can get work experience anywhere. What this fellowship is providing is an education in how to approach work and life differently. My hope for my future is not just to work in philanthropy, but to drive philanthropy forward – whatever that path may be. Being at TPF is proof positive that if you arrive with questions rather than answers, look for spaces where work isn’t being done, and aim to strengthen the players already in motion, possibilities are endless.

To answer some questions:
Is the fellowship an extension of the master’s program? It is a continuation in that there are more opportunities to deepen my knowledge of the philanthropic sector and apply lessons learned in Indianapolis, both locally in the Sarasota area and through connecting nationally with a variety of organizations and nonprofit leaders.

Is it difficult to relocate, knowing you probably will move again in a year? Transitioning to a different environment is difficult, but the team at TPF is incredible at connecting to the community and making you feel welcome. Their aspiration is to help me tap into opportunities that I wouldn’t have had access to without the year here, which reduces the anxiety about what the “next step” will be.

Is it worth a year of your career? Yes. It’s better than a year learning about foundations because I have the opportunity to learn skills that will transfer to everything and anything I could ever want to do.   

For me, this is a year of more, different, and better.

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