As part of their visit to a third nonprofit organization in Dr. Patricia Snell Herzog’s undergraduate course, students reflected on linking their degree with a direct path to the philanthropic sector, as well as the importance of saying ‘yes.’
“Learning from the people we met with at Red Cross gave me examples of what kind of career paths I could choose and go towards. I really need to get into nonprofit work and volunteering now so that I have the experience they have had,” said Kelli Godwin, an undergraduate philanthropic studies major.
Godwin continued by saying she learned that “getting a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree is ideal for getting the kind of jobs (the representatives of the Red Cross) have. It takes mastering a job position and learning from experiences to succeed. Some take home messages and advice that the hosts offered were: ‘get involved now doing volunteering and nonprofit work.’ That is great advice for any student entering the philanthropic and nonprofit sector.”
Another undergraduate philanthropic studies major, Alexis McGee, shared that she was highly inspired by the CEO of the Red Cross, Chad Priest, and his advice to “say yes” to philanthropic opportunities.
“As said by Chad, saying yes to new things—things that make you uncomfortable—is very important,” McGee said. “It is always a good idea to get your foot in the door and be willing to try anything.”
In reflecting on this advice, McGee realized a common theme throughout the organizational visits is that many of the people the students met had not necessarily imagined themselves holding their current positions. Indeed, many positions that are available in the philanthropic sector are hard to imagine without having these kinds of direct experiences.
Jaida Hill, an undergraduate philanthropic studies major, also reflected on this advice from Chad and said that rather than this being a “take home” message, it was a “take everywhere” message.
“I think this is important because experiences strengthen you as a person and bring you closer to fulfilling your purpose in the world, no matter where you land,” Hill said. “Though everyone got (to the Red Cross) in different ways, they all have one thing in common, and that is giving their service for the greater good of the world.”
Alison Gammon-Byrne, federated giving strategy officer at the Red Cross and master’s alumna of the school, agrees. “The non-linear career path many individuals follow to the nonprofit sector provides a wealth of diversity in the sector,” she said. “At the Red Cross, we have staff and volunteers from every possible professional and educational background. There is an opportunity for anyone to be involved with our organization and make a meaningful contribution.
“As a Lilly Family School of Philanthropy M.A. alumna, I am always excited to not only educate students on the role of the sector but also invite them to join us or consider what their future philanthropic contributions look like, wherever they end up.”
Having visited three organizations so far this semester, Dr. Herzog reflected: “A common theme that has emerged in multiple of our organizational visits is the indirect path that has led many people in the philanthropic sector to their current positions. However, our undergraduate student majors in philanthropic studies may have more of a direct path to these positions than people currently working in the philanthropic sector. As the only school of philanthropy in existence at this point in time, the potential for a direct path from school to work in the philanthropic sector is a relatively new opportunity that our school is providing. It is truly a unique opportunity.”
Dr. Herzog asked her students how they think the existence of this more direct path is changing the field.
“I feel honored to be in the only school of philanthropy in the world,” said undergraduate student Jadelin Skelton. “Being able to have an expertise in my field and having less of the ‘learn as you go’ process in my future career will help me tremendously.”
Godwin agreed by saying, “I think us students in the philanthropic studies major are very fortunate to be able to have the direct career path into these kinds of positions. I think that this will also make the philanthropic sector grow because more people will learn about these schools and want to get involved, making the organizations bigger.
“I think that it will get more competitive as it grows, and it will change the field into very skilled workers. I think (eventually) the organization requirements may be to have a B.A. or M.A. in philanthropy (to be hired).”
Indeed, we here at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy aim for our collective efforts to enhance the philanthropic sector in the years to come. We are grateful to our organizational hosts for helping our students make this direct connection even earlier in their educational pursuits, and we thank our current students for the ways you evidence excellence every day in the classroom, and in these high impact activities outside the classroom.
If you are not yet a current student and want to be part of the sea of change our school is helping to create, learn how you can apply.
What advice do you have for young students or professionals learning about the philanthropic sector? Leave a comment below!