Abby Rolland, TPF Fellow 2020/21

A Not New, But Improved, Me

Posted on July 26, 2021 by Abby Rolland, TPF Fellow 2020/21
Since last June, when I started as a fellow at The Patterson Foundation (TPF), a number of people have asked me questions about what a fellow is, what I do, if I get paid and receive benefits (I always smile at that one), and what exactly a private, charitable foundation does. Sometimes, the sheer volume of questions annoys me, but then I realize that I get to share my thoughts and experiences about work that I'm passionate about and that has made an impact on my life.

Because yes, I work to make the world a better place. That's the goal of philanthropy in general – to give, in various ways, to help make a difference for fellow humans, animals, and our earth. And we definitely do that at TPF through a myriad of actions. But in this post, I want to focus on how TPF has helped me grow as a person.

For one, I've had experiences I wouldn't have had in other situations. I've facilitated and co-facilitated several focus groups – I had never done that before. Normally, I like to work behind the scenes, but developing those facilitation skills is essential to anyone looking to collaborate with individuals and sectors in the future. I planned, with a lot of assistance, an entire hybrid event that featured the in-person delivery of special surprises, as well as an engaging and meaningful Zoom conversation with more than 50 local nonprofits in the area. I have worked on research projects related to donor-advised funds, fiscal sponsorships, impact, and evaluation to help inform the foundation's work moving forward. I've conducted presentations, created written reports, met with cross-sector leaders to discuss pressing problems, and more.

Not only were those experiences themselves valuable in building my abilities/strengthening my professional "muscles," but the successful completion of them also helped build something else in me – a quiet confidence that wasn't fully developed in previous positions.

I know that when I work hard at my job, I have generally succeeded. That's not the case with everything (please don't ask me to draw anything!), but when it comes to work, I know that I commit my best self to creating an excellent product. However, over the years, I still haven't fully developed the confidence to tackle any task that comes in front of me. At TPF, I have become more aware of my strengths and how to build on those, as well as how to strengthen areas of growth. By working on various projects in several initiatives, I am able to do the things I used to do better and accomplish assignments that I never thought I could before.

I said this in a previous blog post about my journey so far, and it still resonates with me now.

"By doing the work, tackling challenges, accepting feedback, learning from my mistakes, and realizing that my voice and my thoughts add value, I've thrived. The ability to thrive has come from what I call quiet confidence — the knowledge, deep down, that I can tackle whatever challenges may arise. I can work on solo projects, in collaboration with team members, or across sectors. I can facilitate meetings or just listen and be an observer. I can know a great deal about a specific subject going into a project but still learn more. I can teach myself and ask questions when I need help. I'm confident in my abilities, understand my foibles, and continue to discover opportunities to evolve in even more ways."

So, while I haven't changed who I am at TPF, and haven't altered my values, I feel like an enhanced version of Abby. I'm proud of the work that I've done and the contributions that I've made. I know that I can contribute even more to creating a better community, better society, better world.

In that vein, I am thrilled to share that I have a clear next step for creating that better community, society, and world. I have accepted the position of Grants and Communications Manager with The Presser Foundation, a private, charitable foundation located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, that focuses on music and musical philanthropy, and harp-weaver, a philanthropic consulting firm that manages the operations of The Presser Foundation as well as several others. I am so looking forward to working closely with the harp-weaver staff to spark innovative change in Philadelphia.

I am beyond grateful for my year and "bonus month" as a fellow at TPF. I know that the changes I've experienced, the community I've interacted with, and my growth as a human will forever influence me as I launch into the philanthropic sector permanently.

Communities, society, the country, and the world face many challenges today. We cannot hope to address and solve these issues if we don't share and work collaboratively together. I'm ready, willing to engage, and positive that my year at TPF has made me all the more prepared to partner with others to embrace and catalyze the change that we all want to see.

Stay connected with me on Twitter at @AbbyRolland4. I'll keep you posted on my journey and the innovative work I aspire to do!

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