A Philanthropic Journey: Purpose Greater Than Myself
I never thought I would find myself pursuing a career in nonprofit, or as I sit today, in academia. I was on the fast track, climbing my way up the corporate ladder. It was a steady process, but progress was being made. Then life happened; in 2009 my mother, two uncles and two aunts received those three dreadful words that no family ever wants to hear, “You have cancer.” I was struck week after week, receiving the news that my family was impacted by a scourge we did not expect or understand. I’m from a tight-knit family of 10 aunts and uncles who produced more than 60 cousins, and it seems like cancer was becoming a dark and dreaded specter.
My mother is a cancer survivor. Sadly, we lost my uncles and aunts. Returning home after my fourth funeral in eight months, I decided that I needed to do more. I logged into the American Cancer Society for answers—little did I know, it was the turning point of my career. I felt compelled to do something more, and opportunity presented itself. I was determined to fight cancer in the trenches.
Cancer messed with the wrong family.
Now, six years later, having lost another aunt and a cousin along the way, I am all in—but my mission is much greater than one disease or cause. My nonprofit work, in connection with the fight against cancer, awakened in me a spirit of service. Philanthropy has become not what I do, but who I am. Over the next several weeks and months, I hope to share with readers what I learned about philanthropy, help nonprofits maximize their potential for success and create a meaningful dialogue in pursuit of service.
Please join me, share your comments and feedback. I look forward to this journey.
Tarsha Whitaker Calloway serves as vice president of philanthropy for Tessitura Network. For almost two decades, Tarsha has helped nonprofits develop fundraising, board governance and fundraising strategies to further their mission. Tarsha has directly led efforts to raise more than $50 million for the nonprofit organizations, including the Woodruff Arts Center, Emory University and the American Cancer Society. She frequently presents locally, regionally and nationally on fundraising; organizational and board development; and diversity and philanthropy.
Outside of work, Tarsha has a monthly column in NonProfit PRO magazine and is actively involved in her community, including board of trustees for Destination Imagination, board of directors' executive committee for Leadership DeKalb, board of directors for National HBCU Hall of Fame and former board chair for Atlanta Shakespeare Theater. Tarsha holds a master's of business administration in international business from Mercer University Stetson School of Business and a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism and theater from Texas Southern University. She also holds certificate in current affairs fundraising from the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University and a certificate in diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace from South Florida University.
Tarsha resides in Atlanta with her husband and son.