In January 2022, I celebrated my one-year anniversary as the Director of Grantmaking & Community Impact at Arthur Dean Family Foundation and also clocked a decade in the field of philanthropy.
To say that I have been fortunate to hit these respective milestones would be a massive understatement. I can think of few careers as rewarding as the one that I’ve woven together over the past ten years. Philanthropy is often synonymous with charitable giving, however, if done well, it can be a powerful tool for justice, equality, and provide tangible benefits for communities. Philanthropy does not just provide temporary relief or stability but can activate people’s potential and give them the tools to live the lives in which they hope to lead. To contribute to that, even in a small way, is an enormous privilege for which I am grateful.
I spent my formative years in this sector at Indiana’s largest community foundation where I cut my teeth learning the ropes of grantmaking as a practice, engaging in community leadership work, and understanding the role that philanthropy plays in making our communities more equitable.
Community foundations are incredible institutions. They are also philanthropy’s ‘biggest tents’, with constant urgent demands that stretch staff and resources to capacity. Like so many other foundations, these conditions can often lead to a continuous ‘application, award/decline, report’ loop that creates transactional relationships and yields incremental support and feedback.
Last year, Arthur Dean Family Foundation presented me with an opportunity to do things differently – placing a premium on doing the work in a more relational, comprehensive, and supportive way.
2021 was dedicated to creating the infrastructure and processes required to promote relational grantmaking practices through trust-based philanthropy, while at the same time removing time-consuming and unnecessary administrative practices. During this process, we constantly questioned the necessity of the traditional grantmaking process. Our staff essentially dismantled the typical philanthropic experience and rebuilt it in a way that felt more equitable, personable, and power-balanced. Perhaps most importantly, we crafted a process that provides the time necessary for us to build relationships, involve the community, and hopefully, do the work in a way that better serves our grantees.
While we are only just getting started, I cannot wait to see what we accomplish with our grantee partners on behalf of this community in the coming years. As I head into my 11th year in the field, I am more excited than I have ever been to be doing this work.