Staff Highlight: Maura Toole
For most Philanthropy Southeast interns, the experience marks their first brush with the world of philanthropy – but for Maura Toole, it’s an opportunity to deepen her experience in a sector she’s engaged with since her preteen days.
Maura, a student at Emory University studying philosophy and human health, presented her first grant proposal as a 12-year-old to the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro’s Teen Grantmaking Council – a body she would eventually serve on.
“I interacted with foundation leaders, asked big questions about how funds move between individuals and nonprofits, and explored my community’s greatest needs,” she said.
Maura followed up that experience by joining with classmates in 2018 to establish a nonprofit, the Greensboro, North Carolina, chapter of March for Our Lives, the network that formed in the wake of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
“I learned how to build strong and broad coalitions and how to identify and encourage strengths in teammates,” Maura said of the experience. “And I explored what it means to be a collaborative, effective, resilient servant leader.”
Before arriving at Emory, Maura also worked with the Educational Theatre Association to help develop grants to send underrepresented student leaders to the International Thespian Festival and another for public school arts programs struggling with the impact of the pandemic.
Given her experience, it’s no surprise that Maura came into her internship with some knowledge of Philanthropy Southeast’s work. Since joining the team in May, Maura says she’s been able to gain an even better understanding of philanthropy in the region.
“I was excited that Philanthropy Southeast is actively asking and addressing the questions I have about resilience, equity, and regional prosperity,” she said. “I knew that my internship with Philanthropy Southeast would provide an opportunity to engage with my big questions – and it certainly has! I now have a much better understanding of how Southern nonprofits and the philanthropic institutions that support them can transform outcomes in communities across the region.”
Maura has supported the work of several Philanthropy Southeast staff members during her internship and was also able to attend the organization’s May Board meeting – the first in-person Board meeting in more than two years. She’s also had the opportunity to connect directly with members and supported Philanthropy Southeast’s work to build an inclusive “big tent” welcoming of a variety of philanthropic organizations.
“Through my projects, I have learned about the day-to-day operations of a membership organization that engages with a lot of priorities at a time,” Maura said. “It has been most interesting to learn how each project that the staff takes on is with big strategic plans in mind about advancing equity and engaging meaningfully with members.”
Maura says she hopes to stay engaged with Philanthropy Southeast once her internship concludes later this summer – she says the experience has already helped her in considering what she will do once her studies conclude.
“Frankly, I have no idea what I want to be or do as a young professional and I look forward to continuing to explore the possibilities,” she said. “Philanthropy Southeast has been a great place to explore my interest in the intersection between nonprofit and philanthropy, public policy, and public health. I also am excited to continue to explore Atlanta, a city that I have come to love!”