Inspiring the Next Generation: The Young Leaders Public Interest Seminar Series

Friday, July 1, 2011

ICPR A panel of five philanthropy leaders shared their career insights and personal stories at the first 2011 seminar of the Young Leaders Public Interest Seminar Series, offered by The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, a Donors Forum Partner. The audience was made up of summer interns from all over Chicago. The panelists, representing The Boeing Company, the MacArthur Foundation, the Mivka Challenge, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, and the Woods Fund, had diverse backgrounds and each came to their career in philanthropy in different ways. In fact, a significant insight the group provided was that a career is almost never a linear path.

As the majority of panel members were from area foundations, many audience questions were about funding priorities, accountability, and evaluation. Several key points were made:

  • Written strategy guides their giving, and they are accountable to that strategy.
  • Foundations want to invest money in ways that are going to make a difference over time. They are not necessarily interested in short-term measurement of results.
  • Funders may be more interested in evaluating an entire effort, rather than individual efforts.
  • Philanthropy's role is to supplement, not replace, dollars that government is taking away.
  • Philanthropic efforts that do not succeed are not failures. Organizations must take risks in attempt to help solve issues.
  • Careers in philanthropy often involve long hours and large workloads. It is important to be committed to your cause and prepared to work overtime.

The group’s discussion about careers was especially inspiring. Panel members offered the following tips on what they look for in a resume:

  • How are you engaged in the community? Are you on a board? Do you volunteer?
  • Are you willing to take risks? Are you dedicated to philanthropy or a certain cause?
  • Do you have experience in a broad range of things, and exposure to different audiences?
  • Do you have direct service experience? Do you have previous experience in communications?
  • Do you have interpersonal and organizational skills? Are you people-oriented?

Parting words were also offered: “Do the work that you’re passionate about;” and “Own what you know, but be curious.”

The Young Leaders Public Interest Seminar Series will continue every Wednesday through the end of July. A list of the upcoming sessions can be found here.

~Mary Penn and Lucy Williams, Communications and Development Volunteers