Reflecting & Breaking out of Our Bubbles

Yesterday marked my one year anniversary with Foundation Center, so I’m taking this moment to pause and reflect on what I’ve learned about the field—particularly the niches that live within the philanthropic sector.

My first year was packed with an incredible number of launches (read Jen’s year-end blog post for a recap of what we published in 2018). As an associate in our Knowledge Services department, I work on projects that share funder wisdom and data for smarter decision making. A few highlights from my year: producing our GrantCraft guide on participatory grantmaking , managing a hub for growing the youth giving movement, and developing a report on funding directed to Latin America.

I was very lucky to engage directly with some of you at three unique conferences: Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy (EPIP), Exponent Philanthropy, and the Human Rights Funders’ Network (HRFN) Conference. Each conference’s audience, focus, and structure were unique, but their intentions shared the desire to push the field to work more equitably and collaboratively. For example, HRFN's global conference rejected the traditional dichotomy of funder and grantee by intentionally bringing activists and funders together in dialogue.

At EPIP, I was among a group of diverse early professionals who were navigating fundamental questions such as, “What really is the role of philanthropy?” and “What does it mean to be a person of color working in a predominantly white sector?” Exponent Philanthropy convened philanthropists in a way that fostered strategy sharing and relationship building. I wonder how conversations would have been different if funders and grantees had been brought together in all three spaces, or if the same questions posed at EPIP were brought up with a different audience. My guess is we'd have a greater understanding of all the perspectives and strategies that make up philanthropy, and how they can better work in coordination.

It’s amazing that within such a niche sector, there exists even more niche pockets of conversation. At Foundation Center, engaging in a diversity of spaces allows us to tap the knowledge of a range of practitioners and share it across the sector. If you’ve found your niche, that’s fantastic! But I also encourage you all to break out of your immediate networks and engage in constructive dialogue across the sector. Tweet at us and let us know what events you’re planning to attend this year!

I hope you've all been able to pause and reflect on your own growth and allow yourselves to work towards a new connection you've been meaning to make. As we plan for what lies ahead for GrantCraft, I’ll continue to listen to your needs and interests. My engagement with the sector has taught me there is no shortage of wisdom to share and I want to make sure we continue lifting up your voices.

With excitement for the year ahead,

Sarina Dayal