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Member Highlight: Ayana Gabriel


Ayana Gabriel, a member of the faculty at SECF's upcoming Essential Skills & Strategies for New Grantmakers, will be able to relate to many of the attendees in the room -- her career in philanthropy began less than four years ago when she joined the staff of The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation in March 2015.

"I'm still fairly new so I hope my experience can help others," she said. "Philanthropy is fairly insular so there aren't a lot of resources to learn the profession."

Ayana will be leading the Managing Your Grants Portfolio session. Since she joined the Blank Foundation, Ayana has managed its educational grantmaking programs as a program officer. Her work has included investments falling under the foundation's Pathways to Success initiative, focused on expanding educational opportunities.

Pathways to Success, Ayana said, "focuses on birth – 12 education strategies in the areas of STEAM, education reform, and our placed-based initiative on the Westside of Atlanta."

Recently, Ayana has also added a responsibility related to one of Arthur Blank's most well-known assets: the Atlanta Falcons.

"Beginning this year, I also oversee our new Falcons Players Social Justice portfolio which aligns players interests with the national NFL initiative around criminal justice, police reform, and economic and education empowerment," she said. "Finally, I work on youth and social justice related grants as part of Mr. Blank’s legacy giving."

While Ayana is relatively new to philanthropy, she came to her role with a strong understanding of education and children. She spent nearly seven years at Teach for America focused on diversity and strategy in admissions around greater Atlanta. She also spent five years teaching science in Atlanta's public school system, capitalizing on her academic background -- Ayana holds degress in both chemistry and chemical engineering.

"I’ve had the pleasure of working in most of the areas I know oversee as a donor," she said. "It really helps me understand the on-the-ground experience of the groups and issues we hope to impact."

Ayana said ESS attendees can expect to learn about the importance of relationships in their work.

"Take time to build relationships with your colleagues, mentors, partners, and grantees. Learn how to build trust amongst these groups - you will need it when you are trying to put together that game-changing grant opportunity," she said. ""Philanthropy is all about relationships!"

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