Hull Fellows Highlight: Danielle Gray
Throughout its history, the Hull Fellows program has developed a deserved reputation for propelling its participants to leadership roles within Southern philanthropy – sometimes, the process even begins before the fellowship is over.
That’s exactly what happened to Danielle Gray. When she joined the 2019-20 Hull Fellows class, she was a program officer at the R. Howard Dobbs, Jr. Foundation in Atlanta. By time she finished her Capstone Project, she was associate director of The Zeist Foundation.
Having settled into her new role, Danielle says she’s excited to work with The Zeist Foundation board during a period of transition.
“We will be onboarding the first group of Next Generation trustees, moving toward a paperless office, and re-evaluating internal systems all while operating in a time that is anything but business as usual,” she said. “I am excited to dig in on all these fronts, but I think I’m most excited about helping with the Next Generation transition and working with them to not only establish their roles as trustees, but also lay a foundation that continues to engage and prepare subsequent generations for board service through informal participation in philanthropy and community.”
That’s a heavy workload, but Danielle is well equipped to handle it. She has already worked for two family foundations and, thanks to the Hull program, has a nearby mentor with similar experience: Lynn Pattillo, president of The Pittulloch Foundation.
“She has been an incredibly helpful sounding board and champion on my behalf,” Danielle said. “She has provided me with meaningful insight regarding building networks. I am inspired by her dedication to child mental health.”
Of course, Danielle will also benefit from the built-in professional network the Hull Fellows program provides. She said the 2019-20 class was particularly affected, and brought closer together, by collectively experiencing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and calls for racial justice on philanthropy.
“The need we saw in the communities we serve as a result of COVID-19, followed shortly by the reverberating wall of emotional pain and calls for change as a result of the highly publicized killings of African American citizens by people with power was palpable within our fellowship,” she said. “I think it lit a fire within us all to seize the moment to achieve lasting change.”
In particular, Danielle said she developed a strong bond with the Fellows she collaborated with on a Capstone Project focused on economic mobility.
“One of my favorite exercises is to dig deep on an issue, gain understanding, and reframe it for philanthropy’s context in a way that points to how we might be better. The Capstone Project created the time and space to do just that,” she said. “Working with the women in my capstone group was a real pleasure. I learned so much from their different perspectives.”
With the Hull experience now behind her and plenty of work awaiting her, Danielle says she’s beginning 2021 deeply determined to make an impact.
“2020 forged my resolve to not only lift up those working to help marginalized populations, but to engage with collective efforts to address the upstream causes,” she said. “Now that we have all witnessed first-hand the indisputable inequities within our systems, I believe we can move forward to debate and test solutions rather than causes.”