Reflections on the Paul Boumbulian Social Entrepreneurship Fund and Learning Community

In the spring of 2014, one of AACF’s donor advised fund holders, Paul Boumbulian, created a new opportunity for non-profit leaders to reconnect with themselves and relax from the stress of running a full-fledged organization in order to rediscover their passions both personally and professionally. This idea emerged when Boumbulian reflected on how individuals and communities are heavily influenced by the physical, psychological, social, and spiritual interactions in life. The result: a series of grants for leaders of local non-profit organizations to explore the relationship between their inner life of mind and spirit with their outer life of action and service.

Imagine the healing powers of a supportive retreat, a stroll around a labyrinth inviting you to connect with inner thoughts, or a conversation brought forth from an inspiring poem. In the non-profit realm, personal well-being and growth may often be overlooked for the sake of the needs of the organization or client. Many non-profit leaders serve as the face of the organization and find it difficult to separate their professional identities from personal ones. Passionate about inspiring, empowering, and healing communities, many non-profit leaders may focus their attention on giving, forgetting their own needs in the process. Established in the Spring of 2014, the Paul Boumbulian Social Entrepreneurship Fund and Learning Community seeks to provide opportunities for non-profit leaders to re-connect with themselves, heal from the stresses of running an organization, reignite passions, and discover new interests, both personal and professional. The idea grew out of Boumbulian’s personal interest in how individuals and communities are influenced by the interactions among the physical, psychological, social, and spiritual dimensions of life and how understanding in these areas can help leaders foster holistic growth, build organizational capacity, and better human conditions.

Through the AACF, the Paul Boumbulian Social Entrepreneurship Fund provides three grants of $1000 each to local non-profits to build organizational capacity by supporting the professional and personal development of their director. In addition to the grant, AACF’s President Delene Porter, the Donor Advised Fund holder Paul Boumbulian, and LCSW Tina Tinsely facilitate a quarterly gathering for grantees focused on providing a supportive environment that inspires them to examine their inner life of mind and spirit and their relationship to the outer life of action and service. Current grant recipients, fondly referred to as Boumbulian Fellows, meet every three to four months for sessions that generally range between four to six hours. Sessions are held in locations that promote spiritual, psychological, and physical well-being. Activities range from session to session based on the needs, desires, and interests of the cohort. Past activities have included discussions of readings, guided meditation, poetry, Enneagram, and personal discovery through labyrinth walking. For fellows, these sessions offer much more than a day of activities–they offer a space for deep conversation and openness. Many have reflected on the healing powers of conversing in an open environment with other agency leaders who may share similar struggles, experiences, and passions.

For Sue Lawrence, Executive Director of the Jeannette Rankin Foundation, which provides scholarships and support to women aged 35 or older working towards completion of higher education degrees, being a Boumbulian Fellow has encouraged her to make space and time for personal needs and growth and to “slow down and pay attention.” Through the supportive environment of the learning community, Sue has grown more mindful of the aspects of social service she enjoys and has discovered new areas of interest in relation to the community and social empowerment. According to Sue, it’s very easy to become so immersed in the needs of the organization and the role one plays in one’s work that personal and spiritual reflection get overlooked.

Lemuel (Life) LaRoche, director of Chess and Community, which supports and empowers teenagers in the Athens area through chess and social activities, echoes many of Sue’s insights on the experience. For Life, the learning community gatherings provide a space to grow and learn from one another without specific agendas or goals. LaRoche says, “You just really shed. A lot of times we know who we are, and the world has a way of helping us forget. The group has helped me recall and remember what I came to do.” In addition, he feels that the program is beneficial in building friendships and a stronger network of peers that may provide a different perspective. Ultimately, Life feels that the relationships he and others have established both with self and other agency leaders can help to build a stronger and happier Athens.

“Strategic philanthropy means more than a financial transaction,” adds Delene Porter. “Paul is investing his time and knowledge in the next generation of our community’s leaders.” Find out how AACF can help you make an impact.

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