Reflections from a Summer CR Fellow

CSR. CAF. CPI. How would I keep track of these acronyms? This was just one of the many questions I asked during my first few days as a Fellow this summer at Silicon Valley Community Foundation (or "SVCF" - I caught on to that one fairly quickly). But thanks to the warm and welcoming CR team (another one...), as well as the rest of the dedicated staff, I've not only mastered the lingo and am comfortable throwing around at least a handful of acronyms, I've also learned far more about philanthropy and CSR than I could've hoped during these past nine weeks.

After graduating from Stanford last Spring, I was excited to have the opportunity to explore a field outside of my Human Biology and pre-medicine wheelhouse, while still doing meaningful and impactful work. Stanford's John Gardner Fellowship in Philanthropy provided just that. Under the oversight of Leslie Garvin at Stanford's Haas Center for Public Service, I was one of two Gardner Philanthropy Fellows who joined SVCF's team and were thrust into the world of Bay Area grantmaking for nine weeks over the summer.

I wasn't sure what to expect as I ventured south on El Camino street away from Stanford's familiar campus and toward this new, uncharted territory of SVCF and the philanthropic sector. My past work experience has been at research labs and in hospitals, and I had just wrapped up final exams in cancer epidemiology and organic chemistry. So what would I be doing as a brand new Philanthropy Fellow on this so-called "Corporate Responsibility" team?

I landed on the third floor of the office wide-eyed and ready to see what this Corporate Advised Fund and Global Employee Engagement business was all about. Soon after I arrived, I realized that this was going to be nine weeks of trying to absorb as much as possible -- and as fast as possible. Right away I found myself sitting in meetings and hearing about the important work being done in Social Impact, Marketing, Employee Engagement and Disaster Relief and Preparedness. I sifted through nonprofits' financial documents, learning how to judge liquidity, stability and an organization's potential as a grantee. And I evaluated CSR case studies, analyzed Corporate Advised Fund fee structures, and supported planning of the upcoming Corporate Philanthropy Institute (CPI) happening in a few short weeks. Best of all, I was lucky to be surrounded by experts in the field, ready to teach and guide me every step of the way.

Everything was a learning experience -- from overhearing conversations in the break room to chatting about Donor Circles over lunch with a fellow Stanford alum and SVCF team member. I spent the summer trying to absorb everything I could, yet know there is still much more to learn about the field and SVCF's complex work.

My deepest thanks to everyone at SVCF who made this Fellowship the valuable learning experience that it was -- from my supervisors in CR to all the other staff members who both welcomed me with open arms and took the time out of their busy schedules to teach me about their work. I leave after nine weeks having gained even more than I expected -- my new robust acronym glossary included -- and am excited to apply it to whatever comes next.