Taylor Ansley Introduction

(This is a guest post from Taylor Ansley, a fellow at the Z Smith Reynolds Foundation, who is covering the Council on Foundations Conference for Tactical Philanthropy)

By Taylor Ansley

My name is Taylor, and this is my second philanthropy conference. I entered the philanthropic world a little less than one year ago, shortly after graduating from a small liberal arts college. Thanks to a tremendous opportunity from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation (in Winston-Salem, NC), I am now the 2008-2010 Z. Smith Reynolds Fellow.

Let me say a word about fellowships, since it’s a common question when people see “fellow” behind my name. The Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation (ZSR) Fellowship began 17 years ago as a means of supporting the organization with recent graduates (who bring fresh perspectives and diverse skill-sets), while providing a point of entry for individuals seeking careers in philanthropy, the nonprofit sector, or public policy. Fellows are full-time, two-year employees at ZSR; one fellow is hired each year, so at any given time there is a first year fellow and a second year fellow on staff. I work across the Foundation’s five focus areas: the environment, community economic development, social justice and equity, democracy and civic engagement, and pre-collegiate education. As a fellow, I assist program officers in grantmaking, as well as efforts to improve the Foundation’s internal operations and impact.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this excellent blog, as I’m a ‘blog junkie’ and have a great appreciation for the role of social media in spreading information and advancing our work. I’ll be attending sessions at COF focused on the intersection of philanthropy and technology; sessions with titles like “Innovation in Philanthropy,” and “Wired Philanthropy.” I also hope to attend sessions focused on improving the grantmaking process in a way that empowers grantees (without overburdening organizations with unnecessary work), and focuses foundations on strategic thinking and learning.

As a relative newcomer to philanthropy, I’m well aware of what I still don’t know. But I’m also aware that change and innovation in this field—as any other—is necessary in order to improve the impact foundations and nonprofits will have on the pressing issues of our time. I’m excited to learn more about organizations and tools that are pushing the envelope. Thanks again to Tactical Philanthropy for the opportunity to share my thoughts over the next few days.