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The Philanthropy 5: Jeannette Bruno

Welcome to our new blog series, The Philanthropy 5! Each month, we will chat with a Spruce Foundation alumni about their unique perspective on giving, and share the top five takeaways.

Jeannette Bruno is one of those people who makes you feel like no matter what happens – she’s going to take care of it. It’s not just a feeling though, she really does take care of everything. Our former president works for the city as Director of Projects where she makes our city run efficiently. Jeannette contributed a lot to Spruce. She brought that same efficiency to our organization, while emphasizing thoughtfulness in how we do things, especially how it relates to privilege and presence.

1. What was your most meaningful experience with the Spruce Foundation?

Jeannette: My most meaningful Spruce experience was a culmination of so many little moments. I loved being able to witness how responsive our organization was to applicant needs during the grantmaking cycle. In my second year on the board, the grantmaking committee came together to setup info sessions to help better prepare organizations to be set up for grantmaking success. Now, years later, those sessions happen in a dedicated space, and allow applicants the time and space to connect with our board members and learn about how to craft strong grant applications. What was always most meaningful about my Spruce experience were the people who were on the journey with me. I learned so much from my peers and crossed paths with folks who came from completely different lived experiences from me. It’s the people who make Spruce what it is, a place to be innovative and to address needs as they arise. 

2. How do you feel Spruce impacted your career the most?

Jeannette: Spruce is a place where you can hone your leadership skills. A friend and former Sprucer characterized it as a “Playground for Philanthropy,” which I feel is a really accurate assessment, particularly the playground part. What first drew me to board service on Spruce was the fact that it felt like a safe place for me to learn how to be a leader, propose new ideas and execute on them, make change, and build with others. Serving for 4 years on the board allowed me the opportunity to develop my leadership skills outside of my professional workplace. I leverage what I learned during my time in Spruce in my current position leading others, and am grateful that I was able to develop these skills alongside amazing and inspiring board members. 

3. What is the most unexpected way giving has added to your life?

Jeannette: What surprised me most about giving, particularly when starting out, was how easy it was to get into a giving habit. I think sometimes, especially as an entry level professional working on a nonprofit salary, the thought of giving monetarily is really hard to swallow. When I first started out giving regularly to causes that mattered to me, I framed it in ways that made sense. I gave up my weekly coffee for a month and donated those funds instead of making one large donation at once. Now, I know there are times during the year that I give, and I make it a point to set aside funds for giving; it has become part of how I budget my pay. I’m glad that I’ve cultivated this habit – I am always happy to support my friend’s students in their fundraisers, as well as local cleaning and greening initiatives in my neighborhood.  

4. Who is your philanthropy role model or hero?

Jeannette: I don’t have a specific role model or hero, but I am always excited to see how many young people – folks who are in their early 20s-30s – are passionate about giving back to something that’s meaningful to them and their community. Our younger generations are challenging what it means to be a philanthropist. I am inspired by my peers who dedicate their time, talent, and treasure to causes that matter to them and impact their community. 

5. What is your favorite book, article, Podcast, or TEDtalk on giving back?

Jeannette: I really enjoy a piece from Time Magazine, written by Jenny Santi, entitled “The Secret to Happiness is Helping Others,” which outlines tips for how to give in ways that make sense for a person, without becoming fatigued by giving. That said, I’ve also been reading a lot lately about the responsibility that philanthropists have to recognize their inherent privilege and ways in which nonprofit and philanthropic organizations can mediate issues of privilege, racism, and inequity in their work. There are a ton of great resources about this, but these two articles were where I first started.