Marlene Corrado, Manager Development & Marketing, National Center for Family Philanthropy
(1) Why did you get involved with EPIP and can you share one of your most memorable or valuable experiences?
I first became involved with EPIP, about 5 years ago, when I moved to DC. I originally learned about the organization when I was in college and thought it would be a great network to explore while searching for job opportunities.
I started attending the local DC chapter events and quickly gravitated toward the space that EPIP was creating. I was impressed to find that it wasn’t just a space for happy hours and networking – the chapter seemed to be more invested in developing substantive programs that were thoughtful and engaging. The conversations were candid; their perspectives were refreshing. Of course, there were also opportunities for peer-to-peer mentorship, professional development, and volunteerism. All in all, it was a great community of diverse leaders – all committed to philanthropy.
I joined the DC Steering Committee in 2012 with the hopes of finding a way to learn about and contribute to the philanthropic sector. The committee was made up of a wonderful and very talented group of people – some of which I still keep in touch with today.
My most memorable EPIP experience? I will always remember my first National EPIP Conference. It was in Chicago (that’s where I’m from). It was there that I connected with other philanthropic professionals from across the country. We exchanged strategies, successes, challenges and lessons learned. I remember asking a lot of questions and feeling safe in that space. After hearing so many stories, I started to feel more confident that I had found “my people”.
(2) How did you come to be involved in philanthropy?
I can remember volunteering with my parents in our local community since I was a child; philanthropy was a large part of my upbringing. Together, we would raise money for a variety of charitable causes, participate in walkathons and volunteer at food pantries. By the time I moved away for college, I knew that I wanted to make some sort of difference in the world.
At the time, I decided that I would pursue physical therapy as my major at Grand Valley State University. During my first year, I participated on a service learning trip in Biloxi, Mississippi. That was 5 months after Hurricane Katrina slammed into the gulf coast and it was on that trip that I met a large number of students that were studying nonprofit management at GVSU. I had no idea that such a major was offered. When I returned, I changed my major, graduated in 2009 and continued on to graduate school at GVSU. While in graduate school, I was a graduate assistant at the Johnson Center for Philanthropy and supported both the special projects team and Frey Chair for Family Philanthropy. That was just the beginning.
(3) What led you to your current work?
After completing my graduate studies, I moved to DC. Within a few months, I secured an unpaid internship at a small family foundation called the Hovde Foundation. Although I was truly passionate about the foundation’s work, I knew that I needed to find an opportunity that would be financially sustainable, considering my student debt and DC’s high cost of living.
I eventually came across an opportunity at the National Center for Family Philanthropy. Before applying, I was already quite familiar with their work and thought leadership from my previous role at the Johnson Center. I started out as the Assistant to the President and was later promoted to Manager of Development & Marketing.
(4) How do you cultivate your own leadership abilities?
I am a member of a few professional networks such as EPIP and the Association for Fundraising Professionals. On occasion, I’ll attend programs organized by the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network. I’ve also enjoyed volunteering with nonprofits and foundations to contribute and learn more about the issues that I find to be of interest.
I don’t have a formal mentor but I do have several peer mentors that have been critical for exchanging advice and encouragement. I’ve also recently been intrigued by meditative practices and believe that mindfulness can have a tremendous impact on one’s personal and professional development.
Additionally, I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about the skills that I’ve developed through past experiences, the skills that I’m developing currently and the skills that I hope to develop in the future. I try to incorporate that language in my performance reviews at NCFP and conversations with my managers so that my career moves in a direction that aligns with my future aspirations.
(5) What's one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
When I graduated in 2011, I was primarily interested in international development, NGOs and philanthropy. Despite only knowing one person in DC, I decided to move halfway across the country to explore those interests. Since that time, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have found many new opportunities and colleagues along the way.
(6) What single piece of advice or quote do you have for fellow EPIP members?
It’s quite simple but I’ve always liked the quote, “Life is what happens when you step outside of your comfort zone.”
(7) What are your social media handle(s)?
|| Interviewed by Alison McNeil, May 24, 2016