What do you mean by “fellow”?

It’s often hard to explain to my friends and family what it means to be in a “fellowship” role. Usually they squint their eyes and nod slowly as I attempt to explain and many, I’m sure, leave the conversation thinking “Okay, yeah, she’s basically an intern.” Which is true, in some respects! But the learning experiences I’ve had as a Columbus Foundation Fellow, like the Giving USA Nonprofit Forum last Thursday, have distinguished this summer as far more fruitful than any internship position I’ve held.

The topic of last week’s Nonprofit Forum at the Columbus Foundation was central around Giving USA and its annual report. Giving USA: The Annual Report on Philanthropy is a publication released by the Giving Foundation that reports on the sources and uses of charitable giving in the United States. This discussion is incredibly helpful for my supervisor at Cristo Rey HS as well as the rest of her development team however it is also appropriate for me personally as its data affects a large part of my research project: fundraising strategies.

We were incredibly fortunate to have the lead researcher of the Giving USA report, Dr. Una Osili, as the presenter followed by a very diverse and knowledgeable panel. I would do a great disservice to the wealth of information and expertise that was present by trying to summarize the content in a 300-word blog post, but there were several takeaways that led to key “aha!” moments as I’ve returned to my research. The data presented provides concrete numbers to help focus the fudnraising efforts of nonprofit organizations, spelling out the current giving trends in the Columbus community. As I begin to reach out and interview other Cristo Rey High Schools across the nation, it is imperative that I have a solid, informed understanding of the fundraising environment. That way I can most effectively process, analyze and present my own data specific to Columbus with the underlying knowledge of national statistics and current trends. Further, understanding important buzzwords like “employee-match programs” and familiarizing myself with relevant data and figures have all been useful as I begin to frame my future discussions for interviews and focus groups.

All that being said, I continue to find myself feeling so challenged, supported, and motivated by the opportunities provided by the Columbus Foundation and Cristo Rey. Yes, similar to an intern, I have a temporary role that needs guidance and my purpose is to serve whatever needs may arise for Cristo Rey, but it is so much more than that. My engagement with the nonprofit sector is continuously progressing and my knowledge is building. I have already learned so much more in these three weeks than I have during entire 3-month internship programs. I’m a work in progress, absolutely, but hey, as long as I’m not making coffee for anyone…

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