Photo: Connor LaGrange

The Future of the Philanthropic Sector Spring Course: Reflections from Connor LaGrange

Posted on April 06, 2020 by Connor LaGrange, experiential learning with The Patterson Foundation

Editor's Note: The Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and The Patterson Foundation are partnering on "The Future of the Philanthropic Sector," a special topics course for the school's students during the spring 2020 semester. The course has connected students to The Patterson Foundation's innovative approach to philanthropy and nonprofits in the Sarasota area engaged in the foundation's initiatives through interactive online experiences.

Connor LaGrangeThere is a Proverb in the Bible that goes, "Hope differed, makes the heart sick."

I have experienced heart sickness a few times in my life, but when the news came in that our spring break study away trip to The Patterson Foundation (TPF) was cancelled, I was absolutely devastated. I was so looking forward to the chance to learn and convene with the incredible leaders that TPF was bringing together (and selfishly, I was looking forward to some sunshine).

After the news of our trip cancelation, I was not expecting much from the class (because, well, TPF is in Florida, and we are not). However, the way the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and TPF collaborated to create a week-long virtual learning space was amazing. Not only was it amazing, it was extremely humbling to see the effort the two organizations put in to make things work for students.

Obviously, our plan was changed due to the virtual nature of our trip, but we were still able to participate in many activities with TPF and their local partners. For the week, I was partnered with one of TPF's initiatives, Margin & Mission Ignition (MMI). MMI focuses on training nonprofits to create their own earned income to supplement their financial means. Through MMI, I spent a few days working with the Charlotte County Habitat for Humanity and learning about a potential earned-income venture for their resale stores.

Working alongside their CEO Mike Mansfield and Senior Director for Outreach Gabrielle Reineck was an absolute joy. The two of them, combined with Larry Clark's guidance and leadership, gave us the best possible experience. They were eager to share their experiences and more than willing to listen to a few suggestions we had. It was humbling to watch them set aside time for me in the midst of an insane week for many businesses. We were able to hone in on ways, such as purchasing new merchandise and selling it at a markup, in which Habitat could continue to generate more income than they currently were. We were then able to share our findings with a group of Lilly Family School of Philanthropy students, faculty, TPF staff/consultants, and other nonprofits who had previously participated in MMI. It was a great virtual forum where we were able to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of our plan and the plan of other student consultants in the MMI program. It was wonderful to see so many community leaders interacting and encouraging one another in the fight to continually change their worlds for the better.

It is hard to share in such a short forum the impact this week has had. It was a hopeful experience. I was able to watch people so invested in changing the world, come together, and pour their knowledge into students who were learning across the country. It was inspiring to see a new generation of philanthropists gleaning all the information they could from people who have spent their lives doing what we learn about in our classroom walls.

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