EPIP DC Member Spotlight: Melody Fitzgerald, Executive Assistant to the President, Meyer Foundation

melody.pngWhy did you get involved with EPIP?

I first got involved with EPIP after falling into the philanthropy world. I knew a bit about the nonprofit world but very little about philanthropy. When I got here, a Meyer colleague and EPIP member suggested I connect with EPIP to meet others in the field. My first event was a happy hour; it was great.

EPIP allowed me to flex my leadership skills. I’ve grown a lot professionally-and the experiences were incredibly valuable. Serving as a DC steering committee member and working with National were incredibly rewarding experiences. The last two conferences were transformative-there was space for me to open up and connect with my colleagues from across the country. I saw that chapters shared similarities with EPIP DC. I learned how to apply countrywide practices to DC planning.

How did you come to be involved in philanthropy?

I fell into it. I didn’t know that you could work in nonprofits as a job-I didn’t know that was a thing. I had just graduated with my masters in Atlanta and came back to the DC area where my family lives. I came to the Meyer Foundation as a temp and after a few months, they hired me full-time.

Meyer Foundation has allowed me to get really immersed in the programmatic work. I’ve really increased my understanding of what’s going on in the world and specifically the Greater Washington region. I fell in, but luckily it was a good place to learn and grow.

What led you to your current work?

I started as a program assistant and was able to work with every program area of the Foundation. I was adaptable and flexible, moving wherever Meyer needed me. I was really connected to social media and learning what grantees were doing and figuring out how the Foundation could amplify their voices. This led me to working with our programs and communications team. My work with EPIP helped me tremendously here. Now my job is to support Nicky Goren (Meyer’s President and CEO), our board of directors, and Meyer’s internal governance. I’m working to make the most of our volunteer leaderships’ time and talents. It’s a very different lens but had it not been for my work in the other roles, and EPIP, I couldn’t be as impactful. Remaining open and flexible to new experiences got me where I am now.

How do you cultivate your own leadership abilities?

I try to pick something that is completely outside of my comfort zone. For example, I applied to the EPIP steering committee after attending very few events. I was eager to participate because it was something I hadn’t done before. It was a huge leadership boost to me. I also applied to EPIP National’s Inclusive Leadership Cohort and it was amazing.

For me, it’s been saying that thing over there- that thing I would never do…. I’m gonna do that.

In a previous life, I was a camp facilitator and facilitated an exercise called comfort circles. In the exercise there are three concentric circles: comfort, growth, and fear. You help shift participants out of their comfort zone and see how they grow in the process. That’s the same philosophy I take with my own leadership development.

What's one thing people would be surprised to know about you?

I’m not very comfortable speaking in front of people- I’m an extroverted introvert. I can turn it on when I need to but I’d much rather be with my French bulldog.

Also, I studied art history extensively, particularly 17th century Roman Baroque sculpture and architecture. I can actually take you on an awesome tour of churches in Rome, Italy…if anyone wants to fly me out there for a tour, I’m open to it. 

What single piece of advice or quote do you have for fellow EPIP members? 

My advice is to get involved with EPIP as much as you can. You will find that by jumping in with two feet you will get so much…stretch yourself-go for it. In the end, EPIP enhances your leadership capacity. Everyone creates space to move you forward.

A quote that I go to during stressful moments says “may my heart be kind, my mind fierce and my spirit brave.” I say it regularly as a reminder of my intentions in this life. 

What are your social media handle(s)?

Twitter: @melody_fitz

Instagram: To see gym selfies, food photos, and my adorable French bulldog follow me

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