When I started at the Dobbs Foundation 6 years ago, I had no experience with the world of institutional philanthropy. The closest I had come was interning with the alumni giving program at college. I knew about large foundations primarily from their support of NPR. As most in this sector will recognize from their own stories, I fell into this world through timing as if the tumblers of a lock aligned just as I was passing by. But, through the interview process my eyes were opened and I began to imagine opportunities to witness great works and have a small hand in them.
My training was a trip to New York to learn GIFTS and a few conversations with staff from other foundations. Dobbs had been unstaffed for a period and did not have procedures in place. Catherine Covington, previously of SunTrust’s Foundations & Endowments Specialty practice and the Tides Foundation (Some of you on the West coast may remember her as a networker par excellence from the GMN conference in Denver… she was getting married, moving to San Francisco and making contacts, but I digress), invited me to my first GMN meeting. While most of the conversation was well advanced of what I was currently undertaking with our grants database I made immediate connections. I called upon them to help me think through system protocols. I participated in webinars. My perspective changed so I was thinking less about archiving and more about data-mining. GMN and its members were my real training ground.
Flash forward 6 years, I am now the membership chair for the Southeast region and I love inviting others to share the wealth of resources GMN provides, not the least of which is being able to pick up the phone, call a grants manager across the country and say, “I saw your post about xxxx, can you share more how that worked at your Foundation? Can you tell me what I should watch out for? Were you satisfied with xxxx?” Believe me I’ve done it – often. Every person I have called or emailed or asked at a meeting has been kind, responsive and incredibly generous with their time and expertise.
In a two person office, sometimes it’s difficult to get out and connect with others in your field – but it is so important. It’s what keeps me prepared for what’s to come. From day one of starting at the Foundation, I had been badgering our President about redoing the website (It’s ugly!), and stock-piling ideas like a magpie. Well last year I finally won the battle to get the project in the budget following a chapter presentation from Danette Peters (formerly Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation) et al about their communication efforts and a fantastic seminar during the conference in St. Petersburg by Grace-Anne Alfiero, both of which I immediately shared with our President. It was through a recommendation from the southeast chapter’s program chair, Candy Champion (Turner Foundation), that I found our developer, and we hope to launch it later this year (You know the pace of foundation’s however so don’t hold me to that statement!)
Looking forward to connecting with you,
R. Howard Dobbs, Jr. Foundation
GMN Southeast Regional Chapter