Reflections from a Former Philanthropy Fellow: Inspiring People to Give Where They Live

By Kevin Donnelly
Donor Services Associate

The Community Foundation in Montgomery County

When I began my fellowship with the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region in Montgomery County in September of last year, I had every intention of leveraging the position to its full extent. Because of the Community Foundation’s extensive network, strong reputation, and unique position within the industry, it seemed like the perfect place for me to learn more about philanthropy while simultaneously networking my way into a job. Little did I know that all of my networking would lead me right back to the Community Foundation – but this time as a full-time employee. Now, three weeks into my “new” job, I want to share some of what I have learned in my time here.

One of the most eye-opening things about my position with the Community Foundation was the revelation of just how substantial the needs are here in Montgomery County. I have lived in Montgomery County almost my entire life but it was not until I began my fellowship that I truly understood the difficulties many of my neighbors experience on a daily basis. I had no idea that over 50,000 Montgomery County kids rely on free and reduced-price meals or that over 100,000 Montgomery County residents have no health insurance. To me, Montgomery County was the Land of Milk and Honey, but for many of my neighbors that was not the case. It was sobering to learn about the struggles many in my community face, but my fellowship also exposed me to the tremendous concerted efforts undertaken by amazing organizations to lift up the community as a whole.

Through site visits, events, and casual conversations with donors, nonprofit leaders, and members of the general public, I learned that the Community Foundation has inspired so many in Montgomery County to give of themselves. I saw firsthand the impact of people giving where they live, concentrating their investments of time, talent, and treasure in their neighborhoods and communities. Whether it is the Neighbors in Need Fund, dedicated to assisting Montgomery County residents in times of crisis, or the Crossover Youth Project, an initiative aimed at reforming the juvenile justice and child welfare systems to prevent youth from “crossing over” between the two, the Community Foundation and its network seem to be at the forefront of change in our community. It is this dedication to positive, holistic impact that makes me so excited to be staying on as a full-time member of the Community Foundation.

The Philanthropy Fellows program enabled me, through my position with the Community Foundation, to gain the perspective necessary to effect change in an intentional, strategic way. It allowed me to build upon the foundation I gained at the University of Maryland and helped me to better understand what it takes to make a community stronger. As I grow and learn in my position with the Community Foundation, I will always hearken back to the Philanthropy Fellows program as the springboard that catapulted me into a rewarding, impactful career in the social sector.

The Philanthropy Fellows program is an exclusive partnership between the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers and the University of Maryland’s Do Good Institute. Through the program, UMD public policy students with an interest in philanthropy and nonprofit management get paid professional experience working in philanthropy with members of WRAG.

WRAG Members: Interested in hosting a Philanthropy Fellow this fall? We’ll be accepting position descriptions until mid-May. Find out more about the program and how it works here or contact Rebekah Seder,

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