An Amazing Opportunity: My experience so far as the 2016 Community Philanthropy Fellow

Alex Draper with the Edmonton Community Foundation is the 2016 Community Philanthropy Fellow. As part of his fellowship, Alex is undertaking a sabbatical project that will explore how granting data can be used to paint a picture of social impact in his community.

Throughout the year we’re sharing updates on Alex’s project here on the CFC Blog. In this post, Alex shares his thoughts on the opportunities that the Fellowship has given him to develop professionally while advancing a unique project in Edmonton.

I’ve been working closely with  Powered by Data as they build an operational online database to track philanthropic funding. We’re excited that in the next few weeks an initial design of the website will be completed and I’ll be able to begin uploading data and painting a picture of philanthropy in my community.

A few months into my fellowship, it’s starting to sink in how exciting the Community Philanthropy Fellowship opportunity is. When I first heard about the Fellowship it didn’t occur to me that it might be an opportunity to create a useful resource for my community. However, once I started looking more closely, I realized that the Fellowship’s priorities actually gave me incredible latitude to pursue just about any kind of philanthropic project. Through the fellowship, the Carold Institute and Community Foundations of Canada are making resources available to community foundation professionals so that we can make our ideas happen.

Last week a colleague who works for one of the major arts funding agencies in Edmonton had an interesting insight. I was telling him about my project so far, and describing the range of organizations I’d been in touch with while laying the groundwork for the database. He pointed out that the most valuable aspect of the Fellowship was probably going to be the fascinating, connected and helpful people I am getting to meet and work with – and he’s absolutely right.

As for the project I’m working on, the longer-term goal for the database is to have communities across Canada contributing to it, but the short-term plan is to complete it for Edmonton as a model. A major part of that process is meeting and working closely with as many other funding organizations in my community as possible. While Edmonton Community Foundation (ECF) already has relationships with many of the other funders in our city, this project is changing the way that I personally work with them. I work in granting at ECF and the opportunity to gain a broader perspective on local philanthropy will significantly advance our work. More importantly, forging closer connections with other funders and improving our ability to coordinate will improve philanthropy in our community.

Not only has the Fellowship given me the opportunity to expand my network locally, the Carold Institute and Community Foundations of Canada have connected me to experts across the country. They have put me in touch with organizations like Powered by Data who have invaluable knowledge and experience with data collection and management. That knowledge will profoundly improve the quality of the resource that comes out of this fellowship, and permeate ECF’s operations going forward by advancing the way we report on our granting decisions and share data.

This post gives a small update on my fellowship so far, but more importantly I hope it encourages more of you to consider philanthropic projects you would like to pursue in your own community. The program is currently accepting expressions of interest for the 2017 Fellowship – and you should seriously consider applying. It is an amazing opportunity for personal and professional development and to advance the field of community philanthropy in your community and across the country.

If you have any questions about my fellowship experience so far or the project I’m working on, please get in touch. I’d be happy to chat.


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