How did your career journey lead you to Geneva Global?
I started my career journey teaching in the Dominican Republic, but I think my path truly started when I participated in a summer study abroad program focused on the past and present-day experiences of Black people in Paris, France. There were stark differences – such as the language barrier or even the generational proximity to Africa – but there were also striking similarities. I will never forget the police brutality I witnessed at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, and the casual way in which the people walked by and ignored it. From that moment, I developed a burning curiosity to learn how other people of African descent experienced life.
Teaching in the Dominican Republic was an extension of that experience. From there, I developed a deep curiosity to understand the ways of the world. I wanted to learn how history and international relations intermingled to create a certain experience for Black people, no matter where they existed in the world.
After that, I taught for a few years in Philly, went to grad school in D.C., worked at a communications and marketing firm to develop corporate acumen and consulting skills, and finally landed at Geneva Global where I get to continue exploring how and why the world exists as it does and how philanthropy can step up to help make the world a more equitable place.
How has your role at Geneva Global evolved?
I started out working on ad-hoc projects to learn more about the industry and to get steeped in our style of interacting with clients. I now spend most of my time supporting the communications strategy behind one of the largest philanthropic foundations in the country. To stretch my development in the sector, I’m beginning to work more with private family foundations as well.
What fulfills you most about your role?
Working with a team of people who are relentless in their pursuit to be resourceful, are always willing to learn and share knowledge, and are unafraid to ask difficult questions of ourselves and our clients.
How has the philanthropy landscape changed over the last few years?
There’s an emergent trend towards trust-based philanthropy. More and more, major donors are taking a backseat and entrusting community leaders, and those closest to a problem, to own and manage its solution. This recent phase of philanthropy is not about merely writing a check from a distance, it’s about developing relationships across lines of difference, it’s about knowing when to step back so that other voices can be heard, it’s about recreating narratives and taking risks. It’s a really exciting time to work in philanthropy.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to work in philanthropy (or philanthropy consulting)?
Dive in! There’s so much to learn (and unlearn) – so start reading and engaging with others who already work in philanthropy. If you haven’t already, start giving to causes you care about and start tracking who is showing up to advocate in those areas. Your clients will rely on you to have a pulse on the industry.
What are you most excited about for the future of philanthropy?
I’m excited to see the outcomes of trust-based philanthropy in the coming years. I’m also eager to see more philanthropists give boldly. And I’d be remiss in saying that I’m eager to see more representation in philanthropy across the board.
What are you reading right now?
Lately, I’m swapping between Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi and Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson. I find that these sorts of reads help me unlearn what I was taught from the history textbooks of the 1990s.
Where do you get your news?
I mostly listen to NPR for news. When I can, I like to read the NY Times & The Atlantic. I also love to tune in to the Throughline podcast.
How has your work-from-home journey been? Any tips or tricks?
I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to work-from-home while my children are young. It’s always nice to grab a quick kiss or hug in between meetings. That said, it can be isolating at times. I miss the opportunities for in-person collaboration. No tips or tricks on my end – just try to take it one day at a time. One day, when we’re back to our usual commutes, we’ll look at this time and long for the days of working in our slippers!
For more information about Alanna and to meet the rest of our team, please click here.