I have long given up on chastising myself for not keeping up on every new development in the world of philanthropy. Face it-it’s impossible for the even the most passionate and devoted among us. Pile on a full-time job and graduate school and that’s a recipe for an ulcer. So I decided I must be more strategic about the process. As any good student, I subscribe to the usual suspects (Chronicle of Philanthropy and Nonprofit Quarterly) which are great because I don’t feel guilty if it takes awhile to get through the issues. Of course, foundations websites are always good as well for keeping current on what other funders are doing.
But what I discovered (and try to indulge in every chance I get) are professional development opportunities that land in my lap. I am fortunate in that being on staff at a foundation I have access to workshops, conferences and webinars I would not be able to access otherwise. Attention to all interns out there: TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THESE. More often than not your foundation is a member of several organizations or has access to them via their foundation status. As a staff member these can be free and you can get on mailing lists which keeps you connected to the field. Not to mention the workshops and conferences can offer a great networking opportunity. I have taken part in countless workshops at our local Donors Forum on several topics including “New Grant makers Peer Network” and “Funding LGBT Issues.” In my first cycle, my Executive Director registered me for a 2-day Affordable Housing Conference (based locally) which truly opened up my eyes to the decades-long housing and discrimination issues this country has experienced.
Webinars are another option to take advantage of because they don’t require any travel, you can listen during your lunch hour and if you miss the actual date of the event, you can usually access the archived transcript. Several think tanks and research centers offer these. I’ve been able to register or access forums offered by Chapin Hall (University of Chicago) and Grant makers for Children, Youth and Families. I wish I had the time to be a part of more sessions but my schedule doesn’t allow for that. I try to focus on areas that I am passionate about and which my foundation is a stakeholder. Opening myself up to these opportunities to learn and engage in issues I don’t have a lot of knowledge in allows me to be more effective at my job. It also shows your boss how seriously you take your position. And this should be rule number one for any intern.
Paulette Pierre is a Program Officer intern at The Field Foundation of Illinois. She has a graduate certificate in Non-Profit Management and Philanthropy from Loyola University and is currently pursuing her MA in Interdisciplinary Studies at DePaul University.