Meet the 2020-2021 Tom Ford Fellows in Philanthropy

 In corporate philanthropy, customized giving, Fellowship Program, philanthropy, PVF News

The Tom Ford Fellowship in Philanthropy was created to provide young professionals with intensive, mentored experiences in domestic foundations in order to educate Stanford graduates about the role of philanthropy in society and encourage them to enter the field. This program is made possible through PVF’s partnership with Stanford University’s Hass Center for Public Service and with funding from Susan Ford Dorsey and the Sand Hill Foundation.

The following three 2020-2021 Tom Ford Fellows have been working in philanthropy full-time for the past 5 months.

Ahmi Dhuna: My first few months as a Tom Ford Philanthropy Fellow with the East Bay Community Foundation (EBCF) have been a whirlwind, a joy, and overall a phenomenal learning experience. I feel grateful to have launched my career, especially during this extraordinary year, with EBCF. My projects have included helping develop EBCF’s partnerships with progressive funder networks and innovative funding platforms like JustFund and Way to Win; joining EBCF’s Senior Leadership Team in strategic planning sessions developing the foundation’s long-term vision; and helping build a national partnership with twelve national black-led community-based organizations on COVID-19 messaging and outreach. This project has allowed me to work with several members of Congress, including Representative Barbara Lee.

At the beginning of my Fellowship, I was unsure of what to expect from remote work, especially at an explicitly place-based institution like EBCF. My concerns were quickly allayed by EBCF’s deep commitment to communities was made evident by doubling down on our deployment of rapid and unrestricted funds, particularly to organizations serving those with limited access to federal or other funding. I am learning as much from how we work as I am from the content of our projects. ECBF is a leader among community foundations by acting outside the traditional paradigm of community foundations as mere fiscal homes. During the pandemic, I have witnessed the foundation think critically about how to best leverage their deep roots in the community to fulfill better a vision of social, political, and economic systems change.


Ahmi Dhuna, ’19, ’20 (B.A. Political Science, M.S. Sustainability Science and Practice)
East Bay Community Foundation (Oakland, CA)

“Since the early stages of the Tom Ford Fellowship application process, my goal was to understand the ways philanthropic leaders develop strategic visions for their organizations. Ultimately, my time as a Tom Ford Fellow has shown me the type of leader I aspire to be.” 

Remy Gordon: My time with Ballmer Group Philanthropy (BG), through the Tom Ford Fellowship in Philanthropy, has been an insightful and, at times, challenging learning experience thus far. The most substantive project I have worked on to date is a retrospective review of BG’s Racial Equity (RE) grant making. After the social unrest of the past summer and in response to racial injustice and police brutality, BG’s leaders wanted to understand better what racial equity investments have been made, which geographies they serve, and within which thematic areas they fall. This data will inform where BG should expand its equity work and where it should deepen efforts. I am also assisting in the formation of a new component of BG’s RE work, working to build an argument for its impact on economic mobility and the role that philanthropy can take in the field. Outside of these two major projects, I have had the opportunity to help on shorter-term projects, one of which was leading a session on the 2020 Census for the philanthropy team on what its progress means for the communities we serve.

Looking forward, I aim to expand my work and exposure to the various components of BG. Alongside the national and more strategic work that I have been doing with my mentor, Loren Harris, I will be adding a few projects with BG’s regional offices. This will give me a chance to glean more insight into BG’s grant making processes. Working with the regional offices will get me closer to the ground and allow me to create more opportunities for collaboration with prospective grantees moving through the review process.


Remy Gordon, ’20 (Science, Technology and Society)
The Ballmer Group (Seattle, WA)

“I am eager to continue learning and growing in this role and remain deeply grateful for the opportunities afforded me through the Tom Ford Fellowship.”

Eliza Steffen: Through the Tom Ford fellowship, I am working on the Civic Engagement and Government team at the Ford Foundation… on several areas, namely community organizing, collaborative governance, and social cohesion. A third of my time is spent with Fair Representation in Redistricting (FRR), a pooled fund housed at New Venture Fund and co-chaired by the Ford Foundation.

At Ford, [I work] with Amy Carroll, co-founder of the Center for Popular Democracy, on a research and learning project on collaborative governance or “co-governance,” a concept centered around the deep practice of democracy and civic infrastructure. So far, this mostly includes connecting with grantees and other funders, and planning an internal briefing that happened in December, along with upcoming roundtables with interested academics on economic democracy. The co-governance inquiry overlaps with a lot of our organizing work, where we investigate the structure, funding, and effectiveness of national community organizing networks. It also intersects with truth and reconciliation, exploring the possibilities of funding on political polarization from a race and power-conscious perspective.

At Fair Representation in Redistricting, I work with a fantastic team of mostly consultants with incredible careers in civil rights advocacy, politics, and philanthropy. We are currently planning “Drawing a Just Democracy,” a virtual convening on redistricting for national, state, and local practitioners and funders that will take place across two weeks in February. I am looking forward to seeing such a large virtual event come together, meeting leaders at many of the organizations I admire, and continuing to learn more about the new redistricting cycle.


Eliza Steffen, ’20 (Political Science)
The Ford Foundation (New York City, NY)

“One of the things I have appreciated about my work so far is that I am getting two different kinds of philanthropic experiences in one. On the Ford side is the slower pace and history of a large, well-known foundation.  With the FRR, I get to work on a fast-paced political philanthropy project on an issue that has never before been addressed by the philanthropic world in a coordinated manner.”

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