Getting Out from Behind the Desk

It’s tough to believe that I have already been working as a Davidson Impact Fellow at Foundation For The Carolinas for nearly 4 months now, the time has really flown by.

It has been really interesting to get my foot in the door and learn about how a Foundation, and more specifically, a Community Foundation operates.  While foundations are so closely linked to many non-profit organizations doing amazing work in a variety of fields, I’ve noticed that at times it can be difficult to remember how organizations are so much more than the short snippets of information they commonly provide in grant applications and other correspondences with a foundation.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of getting out of the offices to remind myself about some of the amazing work non-profits do on a daily basis, which can often be overlooked when researching their progress online, and sifting through applications for funding.  In addition to going on a few site visits to see some very dynamic organizations, I was also happy to participate in FFTC’s Staff Volunteer Day with TreesCharlotte, an amazing organization with aims to plant 15,000 trees annually around Charlotte until we ae able to once again achieve a 50% tree canopy by 2050.  Even though the staff was only able to barely scratch the surface of the 15,000 annual goal by planting a limited number of trees, it was an awesome opportunity to get my hands dirty and reconnect with direct service work that I often enjoyed as a Bonner Scholar during my time at Davidson.

Moreover, these opportunities helped remind me that while non-profit organizations cannot accomplish many of their goals without funding support from Foundations and generous individuals, it also helped remind me that funders and foundations can’t accomplish their goals of improving the world without the tireless work of non-profit organizations who leverage funding to improve their communities (as obvious as it may sound.) All of this gave me the  opportunity to see coworkers come together outside of the office and plant a ring of trees around Betty Rae Thomas Center, although it came at the price of a sore back for a couple of days.


Early signs that I am in the right profession

By Eli Kahn ’13

It’s hard to imagine that I’m into my sixth week working at the Foundation For The Carolinas.  This opportunity through the Davidson Impact Fellows program has truly been an amazing experience, and one that I will cherish.  Before I started my fellowship at the Foundation, I would often struggle with answering the question, “So what does FFTC do?”  I knew they were a community foundation which I was able to rattle off a basic definition of when prompted, but what I didn’t know is how much more than just a community foundation this place is.

Every day I walk into the office, I am not only amazed at the efforts and abilities of the staff here, but more importantly by the humility of each individual doing such amazing work.  Through my time growing up, and as a Bonner Scholar at Davidson, I became captivated by the non-profit sector but always struggled personally with how I could enter the sector and hopefully make a difference.  By the time I graduated in May, I knew that I wanted to work in the non-profit sector, but knew that my calling wasn’t teaching or “getting my hands dirty” so to speak by doing the amazing work that so many non-profits do on a daily basis, but instead working in a capacity to allow non-profits to continue and expand their work to touch more communities in need.

Even though most of my time at the Foundation thus far has been spent behind a desk or in meetings in the comfort of a conference room, I have not lost the sense that what I am doing is making a difference, and will positively impact the community.  I have had the humbling opportunities to interact and work with individuals who are tackling some of the largest issues facing our society.  To know that what the Foundation does by connecting donors and financial support to causes and organizations that are capable of tackling these problems, and that what I have been doing at the Foundation will help enable others to make a positive impact on our communities is more than enough for me, and something that I can be proud of when I leave the office every day.

With many of the largest social issues in society, say homelessness for example, there is generally a level of pessimism that the issue is too big to tackle.  I have found that in the philanthropic world of a foundation, this pessimism is outweighed by a sense of optimism – that each small initiative we take on, or grant issued, is a step in the right direction.

If I were to be asked now, “So what does FFTC do?” Or even, “what do you do at FFTC?” I am still not sure that I would be able to deliver a complete and concise answer, which I don’t necessarily see as a bad thing.  The opportunities thus far to involve myself in a variety of initiatives and projects tackling a variety of issues have truly been amazing .  To know that the Foundation, and the philanthropic world in general, has the resources available to make a positive impact on society  has made these first few weeks a great experience, and one that will continue to get better throughout my fellowship.

Thank you Davidson and DIF for launching me into the “real world” with such an amazing opportunity!