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Millennials in Philanthropy – My First GFE Experience

When I was asked to write a brief blog about my first Grantmakers for Education Conference experience, I was not sure how to frame my thoughts. Over three days, I was exposed to and participated in challenging discussions around topics such as civic learning, youth voice, racial identity, and of course, equity. My mindset was altered, thoughts changed, and privileges realized. Talk about some hard-hitting sessions!

The moment I got into my bed after the first full day, I was expecting to feel excited and motivated to continue learning more. But what I realized was that I was downright exhausted. I started thinking about how I felt like I was almost always the youngest, most inexperienced person in the room. Did I deserve to be there? Am I truly able to contribute meaningfully to the group? Did everyone respect me and my opinions?

I know we exist out there, but millennials in philanthropy are sometimes hard to come by. Being in the field you automatically feel unqualified. You are surrounded by people who have decades of phenomenal work experience and are usually experts in the field. Often times, my fellow millennials have no idea what a foundation even does and think I write grants all day long, surrounded by the imaginary kids that I help.

Philanthropy isn’t “hip” or “trendy.” The work isn’t #glamorous. But what philanthropy is in fact, is work that comes straight from the heart. Philanthropy is filled with people who want to do what’s right and just in this world. People understand their privileges and act on them. We come to the office to make a difference.

When I began to analyze those feelings that I had in Washington D.C. that first night, I realized just that. No matter where you are on this journey in philanthropy, the one consistent aspect is that we all want the same things. Everyone who surrounded me at GFE had a desire to help kids and make education equitable for every child. It didn’t matter how many years of experience you had or what type organization you worked for. Your thoughts were respected because you showed up. We’re all in this together; I mean, isn’t that the true spirit of philanthropy anyway?

Grateful to be on this journey with my colleagues at the Stuart Foundation – thank you for continuing to make me a better person each day I come into the office!