The Patterson Foundation (TPF) spearheads a variety of diverse initiatives, one of which kicked into high-gear mid-March called Advancing Philanthropic Leadership. This initiative strengthens and enriches emerging leaders from IU's Lilly Family School of Philanthropy with immersive opportunities in nonprofit sector work on both academic and professional levels through an IU course taught in partnership with TPF.

When students arrived in Sarasota, FL, to embark on their experiential learning portion of TPF's Study Away course, they knew they were in for a high-energy, hands-on experience. On the heels of TPF's mission to strengthen people, organizations, and communities in Charlotte, DeSoto, Manatee, and Sarasota counties, the ten visiting students engaged in the community, meeting with organizations and entities pursuing crucial work in addressing pressing community needs. Two of those students, Molly Grimm and Joseph Trentadue, joined Branan Jacobs, Director of Communications at MagnifyGood, and me on a unique journey to explore how to inspire Philanthropy through the Giving Challenge.

The Giving Challenge is a 24-hour, community-wide online fundraiser hosted by the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, where unique gifts of up to $100 to organizations on The Giving Partner are matched dollar for dollar by TPF. Above all, the Giving Challenge motivates community members in the four-county area to give, double their impact, and encourage their friends, family, colleagues, and neighbors to donate while creating awareness around the mission and work of 700+ organizations in the region. As a result, organizations are supported, and their impact is strengthened by the community–underscoring that everyone can be a philanthropist.

Molly and Joe took a deep dive into the Giving Challenge, visiting organizations in the community to explore their grounds and understand their mission, challenges, and aspirations for the Giving Challenge and overall development and stewardship plans. The visits gave students an opportunity to connect, learn, and share while thinking through how organizations can evolve, and strengthen their endeavors – paramount tenets to TPF's approach.

Our first site visit was to the Lighthouse Vision Loss Education Center. We were greeted by Lisa Howard, CEO, who shared with us how Lighthouse supports visually impaired community members. Part of our tour included a visual impairment simulation with Nathan LaForte, a Vision Rehab Specialist at The Lighthouse. Using visual impairment goggles simulating varying degrees of vision loss and a cane to assist us in navigating the hallways of The Lighthouse, we experienced the challenges one faces when visually impaired.

Following the simulation, we met with Lighthouse board members Robb Olsen and Alexandra Elman Foley to learn more about Lighthouse's strengths, challenges, history with The Giving Challenge, approaches to fundraising and development, and their priorities. Both board and professional perspectives assisted Joe and Molly in gathering valuable nuggets from this meeting.

We thanked The Lighthouse board, Lisa, and colleagues for their warm welcome and then departed for our next site visit at Big Cat Habitat & Gulf Coast Sanctuary. When we arrived, Kay Rosaire, Nancy Nallin, Clayton Roasire, and the rest of the organization's team greeted us. Our visit started with a fantastic tour of the grounds, viewing bears, monkeys, zebras, goats, and more! To our surprise, the animals were quite friendly and social! We even had a chance to get up close and personal with the lemurs, and they were quite friendly!

We continued to the organization's office, where we learned more about Big Cat Habitat's strengths, challenges, history with the Giving Challenge, approaches to fundraising and development, and their priorities. Joe and Molly gathered pertinent information to help them devise a plan of action for the Giving Challenge and beyond. Upon our return from Big Cat Habitat, Molly and Joe worked diligently to develop plans for both organizations on tactics and strategies for the Giving Challenge as well as long-term stewardship plans for growth and expansion of their donor bases.

That Friday, Joe presented to The Lighthouse ideas for optimizing their Giving Challenge participation and overall development plans, which were well-received by its leadership. Molly assisted Joe with Zoom and PowerPoint logistics. Molly then presented to Big Cat Habitat ideas for optimizing how they could engage donors, members, and community members/donor prospects for the Giving Challenge and their overall fundraising and development operations. Her ideas were also well received. Joe supported Molly with Zoom and PowerPoint logistics.

Both students carefully thought through plans that offered ideas and actions that were optimal, manageable, and easy to implement. To arrive here, Joe and Molly engaged a fundamental TPF tenet: leadership willingness, readiness, capacity, and culture (LWRCC). With a clear understanding of where each organization's strengths lie within LWRCC, the plans shared offered ideas that met the organization's needs at the intersection of aspirational and feasible.

The TPF Study Away experience proved to be a phenomenal week of experiential learning and community immersion. Both students, faculty, and organizations' leadership grew, shared knowledge, and gained hands-on experiences along the way. May this course inspire the next generation of Philanthropic leaders who will continue to foster innovative ideas to meet the ever-evolving needs of our fragile world.

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