A Philanthropic Fellowship: An Invaluable Experience

November 13, 2017

GCG Member Guest Blog post

by Tracy Sexton, Program Fellow, Missouri Foundation for Health

As I wrap up my two-year Program Fellowship at Missouri Foundation for Health, I’ve started to reflect on the diverse opportunities and skills I’ve gained through my immersion in the field. Grateful for my experience, I want to share more about what I consider philanthropy’s best kept secret – a fellowship.

I had no idea where to start my career after graduate school (in my case, a master’s in public health at St. Louis University). My passion lies in prevention and precision medicine, but because it’s an emerging focus area, philanthropic work in this area is not yet robust. I decided to apply for a fellowship to gain a better understanding as to what drives changes in health outcomes in our region.

Here are the top five reasons a sector fellowship was a valuable option for me, post-graduate school:

  1. Philanthropic Sector Experience

I went into my fellowship not fully understanding the scope of philanthropy. During my time with the Foundation, I not only learned about the field overall, but also about the inner workings of a health conversion foundation, and how impactful such an institution can be on regional health.

  1. Continuous Learning

As a Fellow, about 10% of my time is devoted to continuing my education. This includes attending local and national conferences, staying abreast of health literature, participating in webinars and much more. This aspect of the fellowship has proven to be instrumental to my professional growth. In a short time, I’ve gained a wealth of knowledge and experience that has made me a more well-rounded thinker. Also, from the beginning, I have shared with my mentor where I perceive gaps to exist in my resume, and we built goals around those areas to ensure I have opportunities to refine those skills. I’m excited to use these new capabilities.

  1. Mentorship

MFH assigned me a mentor whom I report to weekly. My mentor helps me learn about the field, challenges me to help me grow, and provides me with access to both local and national networks to learn about other fields of interest.

  1. Leadership

MFH allows me to not only be a leader internally through facilitating discussions and leading projects, but also externally through outreach with the community and working with different coalitions. A rich example is serving on the steering committee while establishing a chapter of Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy for the Saint Louis Region.

  1. Systems View

Strategic philanthropy requires an understanding of your target population, the needs of your region, what’s already in place to fulfill those needs, and learning who the key players are who can help address the need. Gaining this 30,000-foot view of the health needs of our region has been a compelling experience.

For more information about Missouri Foundation for Health’s Fellowship program, click here.

While there is no comprehensive list of national opportunities, information about a multitude of philanthropic sector fellowships can be found online. Search terms like “philanthropy fellows” and “philanthropy fellowships” to learn more.

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