Member Highlight: Hannah Saeger Karnei

Since last June, Hannah Saeger Karnei has played a unique role at The Patterson Foundation – she’s the inaugural fellow of a program launched by the foundation in partnership with the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

The Patterson Foundation Fellows Program, the foundation announced on its website, is “a year-long career-building opportunity to learn innovative philanthropic principles.” The foundation’s goal in launching the program is to “create a network of future leaders aligned in their innovative approach to philanthropy.”

“To me, this year-long fellows program represents an invaluable opportunity to work with and learn from a team of meticulously innovative philanthropists,” Hannah wrote on the foundation’s website when her fellowship began. “The Patterson Foundation strives to engage individuals, business, nonprofits, government, and media in every initiative. By including young philanthropic leaders such as myself as they work to build these networked initiatives, TPF is providing a unique learning opportunity in the art and science of relationship building, community engagement, strategic philanthropy, and achieving shared aspirations.”

Since her fellowship began, Hannah has regularly shared what she’s learned and experienced on the foundation’s blog. Not surprisingly, one benefit of her experience has been a rapid expansion of her professional network – though it hasn’t always come easily, she writes. 

“While at The Patterson Foundation, I’ve been honing my ‘connective tissue’ building skills through a variety of activities. Most challenging for me personally is conferences,” she wrote. “However, I’m learning the art of connecting, and fortunately, the philanthropic sector has been a pleasant place to stretch these muscles.”

One of those conferences was SECF’s 50th Annual Meeting. Like many attendees, she considered Bryan Stevenson’s closing keynote to be one of the highlights of the event. She wrote about one of the four principles Stevenson discussed: being proximate to those you serve.

“As you might imagine of a public interest lawyer with decades of service dedicated to the poor, the incarcerated and the condemned, Mr. Stevenson has had his life transformed by the deliberate choice to remain close to those he defends,” Hannah wrote.

However, listening to Bryan Stevenson was only one highlight of Hannah’s Annual Meeting experience. Another came on the meeting’s first day, when she participated in a site visit of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s work in Southwest Atlanta.

“The Casey staff spoke about community investment work at length, a varied and collaborative effort spanning years,” she wrote. “At the end of the morning, a staff person summed up the purpose of the work in one sentence: Community investment means people have the power to choose what they will become.”

Hannah still has a few months to go on her fellowship, but she has already come away with powerful lessons about philanthropy’s power to change lives.

“As philanthropists, be it donor, volunteer, staff, funder, we accept responsibility for creating opportunities for people to achieve their aspirations,” she wrote. “To choose not only who they will become but also how they will be remembered – not as numbers but stories of real people living real lives.”

Hannah will continue sharing her thoughts throughout her fellowship – you can read all her posts at The Patterson Foundation’s website.


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