How did native Iowan Ellie Moore learn about philanthropy? How is she making a difference today?
We asked Moore, a current master’s in philanthropic studies student, about her early experiences with philanthropy, what she’s learned from the program so far, and her future goals.
How did you first become involved with philanthropy growing up?
Ellie Moore (EM): My mom has been very involved in her community. When we were younger, we would visit nursing homes, serve funeral dinners, and work on other service-type activities.
At the time, I didn’t really think of it as service; I just saw it has something that we did.
When I went to middle and high school, I started running some one-off projects. I did school supply drives for kids in Afghanistan, and sewed dresses for kids in Africa. I found ways to get involved with people outside of my community who lived around the world. But I still didn’t see it as a career.
When I got to college, I was involved with volunteer experiences like Dance Marathon. I also was a member of a scholarship group where we did a number of service projects.
It wasn’t until I studied abroad in Ireland, though, and interned with Special Olympics there that I realized I could make service work a career.
With that knowledge, what did you do when you returned to the U.S.?
EM: I interned at a community foundation in Dubuque, Iowa where I went to school. I found a mentor in philanthropy and after I graduated, I followed her to a position at the Iowa Council of Foundations (ICoF), which is a regional philanthropy-serving organization.
What do you currently do?
EM: I currently serve as the director of grantmaking and strategic communications at the Community Foundation of Johnson County (IA).
How do you stay engaged with traditional nonprofits?
I worked part-time for Girls on the Run, where I served as northern program manager, coordinating the sites of our programs in my region and managing the volunteer coaches who deliver those programs.
Do you prefer working with a traditional nonprofit, or working on the funder-serving side?
It’s hard to say! One of the reasons I loved working at the community foundation was connecting nonprofits to each other and helping them share resources.
I also really like being on the ground and serving my community directly. However, I think we need to be better at sharing resources and connecting people in communities to those already doing great work. As a funder, you have a lot of connections to a large number of nonprofits on the ground in your community, so you’re able to connect organizations who might be running similar activities or programs, and help them collaborate. I hope we will see more collaboration in the future.
I enjoy being involved in a little way with a lot of different organizations, different types of nonprofits, and the incredible community leaders directing these organizations.
How do you balance all of your work with school?
I work flexible hours, which has been helpful when fitting in school. The organizations I’ve worked for believe the master’s degree program at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy is important not only for my own personal growth and development, but also to inform and support the organizations. Their flexibility and the experiences I’ve gained while in the program have supplemented my academic work, rather than hindering it.
What have you learned from your coursework?
I really enjoyed my gender and philanthropy course, because a great deal of my work has revolved around empowering girls and women. We learned about invisible history. We discovered women who have started charitable movements or raised millions of philanthropic dollars, even though we’d never heard about them prior. I’ve really enjoyed learning about people who have given back and learning from their experiences.
I’ve also worked with funders, and so I also really liked the grantmaking class. What’s the textbook way to read proposals, make grants, etc., and how does that play out compared to the reality for the grantmakers I work with? Are practices of openness and transparency in grantmaking being implemented, and if so, how?
Overall though, I’d say that I enjoy different pieces of each class that I’ve been in.
What advice do you have for potential students interested in philanthropy?
Be open to opportunities and try new experiences. One important part of my journey has been working in and volunteering with a wide variety of nonprofits; small and large, domestic and international, and funder and grantee. It’s helped me to be able to do my jobs better and understand multiple points-of-view.