What is Your Defining Moment?

What life experiences and defining moments influence your choices and how you choose to give or “show up” in the world?

This was the question that kicked off this year’s annual Professional Development Fund gathering organized last month by Emerging Professionals in Philanthropy (EPIP). EPIP is a national network of foundation professionals and social entrepreneurs who support emerging leaders committed to building an equitable and sustainable society.

As young people of color working for foundations, we had all come with our professional “hats” on—titles, foundation names, business cards—but it quickly became clear that this was not what the organizers of the gathering wanted from us. They wanted to know who we were, the formative experiences of our lives, and how they shaped our choices as professionals, as community members, and as individual philanthropists.

When I meet with Pride Foundation donors, I often ask them what connects them to our mission. They often share with me the “defining moments” of their lives: watching a friend get bullied in high school or becoming a foster parent to a queer youth; having their ideas and interests affirmed with a Pride Foundation scholarship or grant; an inspiring volunteer experience; or witnessing friends succumb to AIDS.

One of my personal defining moments was hearing a minister assert that gay people never had to “sit in the back of the bus” as African-Americans had been forced to do during the days of de jure segregation. From that moment on, it felt important to be a visible participant in the movement for LGBTQ equality in order to make it more difficult for people to ignore the existence of LGBTQ people of color.

In any given year, we are asked to donate time and financial gifts to a variety of different causes. Sometimes we give casually because we are asked by a close friend or associate and because we have the resources available. But other times—and ideally most of the time—we give because we believe deeply in a mission and understand the role that our gift plays in supporting it. Whether we take the time to articulate it or not, it is a conscious choice connected to very personal passions, beliefs, and experiences.

The EPIP gathering was a reminder that our histories and experiences shape the choices we make as donors, that it can be powerful and healing to share our inspiration with others, and that being able to name and explain what it is that we care about is the key to creating the changes you want to see in the world.

What about you? What was the defining moment or personal mission that brought you to Pride Foundation’s family?

Tiffany McClain is Pride Foundation’s Regional Development Organizer in Alaska. Email Tiffany.

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