EPIP Boston Steering Committee Member Molly Braden writes here about her experience as a graduate student at Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis' (IUPUI) Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and her journey to becoming a Program Coordinator at Mott Philanthropic.
Finding Philanthropy Through Service
Similar to many working in the field of philanthropy, I found my footing in this incredible field through a circuitous path. As a child, I learned about many local nonprofit organizations in Louisville, Kentucky (a wonderful place, I highly recommend). Growing up with an autistic younger brother, my family was closely connected to organizations such as Special Olympics and Kosair Children’s Hospital. In high school I dedicated hours to service club and especially enjoyed working with Ronald McDonald House Charities and Big Brothers Big Sisters. I was fascinated that so many organizations existed that related to my interests of the arts, the environment, and the developmentally disabled community. I loved that the nonprofit and philanthropic fields offered endless career possibilities.
My experiences throughout my childhood influenced me to major in Nonprofit Leadership Studies and minor in Social Welfare at Murray State University. This undergraduate program taught me the facets of nonprofit and philanthropy work, such as grantmaking, volunteer management, and program development. I had the opportunity to work with Murray State’s development and student disability services offices, the Kentucky Student Environmental Coalition, and West Kentucky Mentoring. I knew that I did not want to transition directly to full-time employment, so I decided to attend graduate school. My college mentor, Dr. Bob Long, encouraged me to apply to the Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.
Three years ago, I moved to Indianapolis and began the two-year Master of Arts in Philanthropic Studies program. Almost immediately, I realized that the laissez-faire, flexible approach of my undergraduate program was in stark contrast to how the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy operated. Instead of choosing my graduate assistantship from a vetted list, I found my own placement with Art With a Heart, ruffling a few administrative feathers in the process. It was obvious that I needed to adhere to a more regimented environment, so I shifted my outlook and free-spirited attitude and became more professionally-minded in the process.
At 22, I could not understand why my graduate program was so stringent, but looking back, I now understand the importance of traditional practices. Throughout my two years at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, I gained a wealth of knowledge. My favorite classes were nonprofit law and cross-cultural dimensions of philanthropy. I loved learning about the history of philanthropy and other countries’ philanthropic entities. I had the opportunity to work on projects ranging from assessing the impact of Wangari Maathai on the Green Belt Movement in Kenya to performing a legal audit for the Wabash Valley Community Foundation. Lilly’s graduate program greatly expanded my understanding of philanthropy and influenced my career trajectory.
Two months after I graduated from the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, I moved to Boston to start a position as a program coordinator with Mott Philanthropic. I always pictured myself working with a grassroots environmental or arts nonprofit organization, but I have found a home in philanthropy with Mott. I currently work on grants management, event planning, research, and communications with a handful of philanthropists and foundations. I am grateful for all of my nonprofit and philanthropic experiences, and I know I’m just getting started!
- Molly Braden, Mott Philanthropic