Philanthropy Fellows in the Field: Reflections from a Fellow

Maggie Croushore served as a Philanthropy Fellow with the J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation. She is currently completing her Master’s in Public Policy, focusing on education policy and nonprofit management. We spoke with her recently about her experience working at the Marriott Foundation and how it has complemented her graduate degree.

WRAG Members: Don’t forget! The deadline to apply for a Philanthropy Fellow for Fall 2013 is coming up. More information here.

Tell us about the work you’ve done as a Philanthropy Fellow.

I have had the opportunity to work at the J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation for almost two years. I have worked on numerous projects ranging from reviewing proposals for Board meetings to researching and helping with the development of the foundation’s education strategy. I have also had the unique opportunity to attend meetings and briefings with funders throughout the region, especially surrounding issues of education reform, as well as visiting the foundation’s many extraordinary grantees.

How do you think you have benefited from participating in the program, particularly in relation to your coursework at UMD?

I have benefited in countless ways from the program already and foresee myself continuing to benefit throughout my career. Prior to attending Maryland, I was a teacher in D.C. for four years—two years as a Teach for America corps member and two more years teaching at KIPPDC: KEY Academy. Therefore, it was an interesting experience to be able to see education reform from a different lens. I was privileged to sit at the table with people I had long admired for their dedication to education in D.C. This experience has opened new doors and involved me in important conversations that have allowed me to see nonprofits from an entirely new, and more comprehensive, perspective.

Being able to apply skills directly from my coursework to the workplace has been a powerful and rewarding way to learn. For example, one week I would be analyzing a case about a foundation board and the next week I was observing the board meeting of a major family foundation. In fact, I will never forget when a trustee asked me a question directly in a board meeting; it was a surreal moment. Luckily, I was prepared with an answer!

What are some of the skills and knowledge you’ve gained while working at Marriott?

I have had wonderful mentors at the Foundation with vast experience in the world of philanthropy. I have learned the importance of partnerships and collaboration. Many of the issues philanthropists are tackling today are challenging and complex; therefore, it is essential for funders to collaborate with each other and their nonprofit partners. Anne Gunsteens has provided such excellent leadership at Marriott, illustrating for me the power of true collaboration. I have also learned how to think critically about complex issues. As a teacher, I was used to thinking about social issues from a practitioner’s perspective; my work at the Foundation has allowed me to think more broadly. I have also learned how to analyze budgets and navigate GIFTS, two things I never knew I needed to know!

Tell us about something unexpected that you learned during your fellowship.

I had no idea how differently every foundation was organized and run. I quickly realized that no two foundations are the same; it is an incredibly diverse community. On the other hand, I learned that even though foundations may be different, they all share an incredible passion for the populations with which they collaborate.

Earlier this month, we featured interviews with WRAG members Tobi Printz-Platnick of the Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation and Amina Anderson of the Community Foundation for Prince George’s County about their experiences participating in the Philanthropy Fellows program, as well as with Charlie Cummings, a Philanthropy Fellow who is working at the Cafritz Foundation.