One year ago I was selected as an Association of Black Foundation Executives Connecting Leaders Fellow. To say that my selection was a career defining moment, is an inadequate understatement. When I applied for the program I was aware that I would receive professional development, the support of a professional coach, and education on how to better serve the Black community through organized philanthropy. What I didn't realize at the time was that I was also going to receive a nearly limitless supply of seasoned mentors who had a vested interest in my success, as well as the "excuse" to dedicate time learning from those that have come before me in the philanthropic field. Too often in our careers we say that we don't have time for professional development. We'd love to call that person, whose career we've been admiring from afar, but are afraid they'll think we're weird. We'd like to do research on effective grantmaking strategies but it's outside of our current job description. A year of doing just that has shown me that a year is not enough. To be a truly effective grantmaker, you need to spend an entire career asking tough questions, learning from the successes and failures of other foundations, taking the time to really get to know your peers from other foundations, and to learn important lessons from those that are retiring out of the sector to ensure that their years of hard earned experience and wisdom do not leave the sector with them.
Take a few minutes today and think about what your ideal professional development program would look like. Would you travel to see other foundations in action, would you interview the best and brightest in the nonprofit sector to see why some organizations thrive and others do not, would you read about the early greats in philanthropy (Rockefeller and Carnegie) to figure out lessons their giving can teach us abut philanthropy today? Once you have those key components in your head, I challenge you to go out and do it. The only thing that is stopping you is you.