Presented by the Cleveland Foundation’s Center for Philanthropy, Foundations for Philanthropy is an interactive cohort experience designed to launch emerging leaders into lifelong charitable giving. Supporting a pipeline of diverse, rising philanthropists, the program shares the critical skills and strategies necessary to leverage time, talent and treasure into meaningful impact for Greater Cleveland, the nation and the world. In this blog, 2022 Foundations for Philanthropy cohort member Le’Priya White reflects on their experience in the program and their approach to philanthropy.
Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you first learned about the Cleveland Foundation?
Ohio truly feels like a second home. As a Chicago native, I took the chance to experience this great state at Oberlin College. After I graduated, I started my journey as an English as a second language (ESL) teacher in China. What I didn’t expect (like everyone else in the world) was a pandemic! However, thanks to “Ms. Rona” (Coronavirus), I was able to move in with my partner in Cleveland and take my first steps working in the nonprofit sector. When I was working at Plexus LGBT & Allied Chamber of Commerce, I was recommended for this program. Reading about this program and all of the great insights offered, I knew I wanted to be a part of this. I wanted to learn more about the various types of nonprofits Cleveland has across the city and the inner workings of grant award decisions. I’m very grateful for the people that believed in me and recommended this program and for all of the AMAZING people I met along the way!
Why did you initially decide to participate in Foundations for Philanthropy (FFP)?
I have always loved dedicating my time to help different communities. Giving back is something special to me, so I knew right away this program could help me learn even more ways to give and which organizations could use the support. This was also my chance to get to know my new home a little bit more, which is always fun!
Is there something new or surprising that you learned through your participation in FFP?
There is A LOT of work that goes into deciding where a grant could go. It’s all about making connections, getting to know organizations and their missions, math, and many other things on both ends of this grant process. For all of the grant writers and grant awarders, you are superheroes.
What did your FFP cohort decide to focus on and why? Can you talk a bit about the journey you shared as a cohort?
As a cohort, we decided to focus on the mental health of our youth. While it was challenging to decide whether the location or the specific demographics of our target population was most important, we did come to the agreement that no matter who we helped, we wanted the youth to be able to build community and have activities to do. It was way more important for them to lose themselves in the joys of an experience, to feel supported, and to be surrounded by staff that cares about their wellbeing wholeheartedly.
Can you discuss how your cohort arrived at its grantmaking decisions?
Honestly, it was kind of difficult. As with any team, sometimes it is hard to come up with a decision that everyone wants. At the end of the day, we had to make the decision that will give the greatest impact. We are all grateful to be able to help two amazing youth-focused organizations: Colors+ and the Refugee Response. I can’t wait to see what change they make. Cheers to them!
What do you feel was the most valuable part of your FFP experience?
What I have valued the most about this FFP experience are the connections I have made. Being relatively new in this city during a pandemic has had its challenges. However, this program allowed me to find ways to be more involved in Cleveland. After meeting several community leaders across the city and learning about different programs to be involved in (my favorite thing in the world!), this program inspired me to expand my involvement in my new city. After this program, I am grateful to be a board member of Colors+ and a mentor for College Now Greater Cleveland after learning about the terrific support they give to our youth.
Why would you recommend FFP to someone else?
The Cleveland Foundation staff is absolutely amazing. My cohort, even when we all wanted different outcomes, were so respectful, kind and engaged. It’s a great way to not only learn more about Cleveland, but to also know where you can help and find your place here. For that, I definitely consider that a win-win…win!
Foundations for Philanthropy is recruiting for its 2023 cohort! Applications will be accepted Aug. 1- Sept. 2, 2022. If you have big dreams for Greater Cleveland and want to learn more about how you can make an impact in your community, you can learn more about FFP and apply here!