What was your path to philanthropy? What advice do you have for students exploring and learning about the nonprofit sector?
Students in Dr. Patricia Snell Herzog’s introductory course previously went on a site visit to human services nonprofit Second Helpings, where the students learned about networking, paths toward working in the sector, and future career opportunities.
The next visitor came to their class to present about a different type of 501(c)(3) organization – a private foundation.
For 82 years, Lilly Endowment Inc. has served the city of Indianapolis and the state of Indiana. The Endowment, created by J.K. Lilly, Sr. and sons Eli and J.K. Jr. in 1937, focuses on three broad grantmaking areas: education and youth, religion, and community development. The Endowment has given almost $9.9 billion to nearly 10,000 charitable organizations.
In addition to its regular grantmaking, the Endowment has recently supported long-term financial sustainability of charitable organizations in central Indiana. Through that effort, the Endowment has made grants totaling $328 million to 49 organizations.
Dr. Chanon Ross works as a program director in the religion programming area at the Endowment, and he shared what he most enjoyed about his visit with the students.
“I sincerely enjoyed visiting Dr. Herzog’s class and talking with the students! I always wanted to teach undergraduate students,” he said. “It never materialized for me, but I think it’s such a remarkable time of life for most young people, as they are trying to discern their futures.”
During his discussion with the students, Dr. Ross shared his insights on building a career, establishing a vocation that is personally and socially fulfilling, the importance of forming strong professional relationships with the people nearby at every step in the process (even as a student), and ways to become part of the Lilly network.
“A great point that he made helped me to understand the difference between vocation and occupation,” second-year philanthropic studies major Ron Berry said about Dr. Ross. “For him, vocation had a more personal meaning and significance for (careers) being self-fulfilling. He felt that (the term) occupation was more geared toward making money in a field rather than giving to what he found to be a passion for himself. Vocation was a way to pursue passion for whatever it might be in one’s life and future.”
First-year student Madison Hanna, also a philanthropic studies major, explained the significance of connecting with others: “Philanthropy is about raising awareness, providing a space for change, and bringing people together. From this meeting, I have a better understanding that in order to ‘turn the dial’ in the field, you have to see the connection between these three ideas, and use your personal gifts to apply yourself to a cause.
“I really got a lot out of this visit. I appreciated the way Mr. Ross went about telling his story (about his personal and professional experiences that led to his current position). Vocational discernment and conviction play a huge role in Lilly Endowment’s work, and this is also why I am studying philanthropy.”
In reflecting on the importance of building connections among the student and philanthropic community, Sierra Gilson, a first-year philanthropic studies major said, “I am a pretty shy person, and this visit just proved how important it is to put yourself out there and take advantage of all the opportunities and networking possibilities that are available. Work in philanthropy could have endless possibilities, but at the same time it can be a very small world. In other words, I need to pay attention to the people around me because chances are that they will cross my path again in the future.”
Junior Nick Brown emphasized the importance of seizing career opportunities that arise (“Even if you don’t think you’ll like it, it’s important to try it, since it may be your dream job.”).
He also reflected on learning more about the grant-making process: “Another thing that really opened my eyes was the sheer number of applicants that Lilly Endowment receives, and how competitive (grant-making) is. Organizations have to write a solid proposal about what the organization does, how much money is requested, and what will be done with that money.”
Berry also discussed how he linked the opportunities he experienced in his life to the class lecture: “If you can utilize your skillset in the philanthropic sector, you can follow your heart and passion through these opportunities. Dr. Ross’s pathway to his position showed me that I too, may follow a path I didn’t imagine or create.”
Read about the students’ previous visit to Second Helpings, or subscribe to keep updated on their next visit and continual exploration of the nonprofit sector.
If applicable, what was your career path to the nonprofit side? How does it tie in with the students’ ideas?