Member Profile: Pauline Fong

Pauline Fong is Chief Program and Impact Officer at M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, in Vancouver, WA. Prior to joining the trust she spent 25 years with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) in a variety roles, ending as regional director for the Northwest. She attended her first PCP conference in 2017, six months after starting at Murdock. She lives in Vancouver, WA with her husband, two almost-adult children, mom, and puppy.

You spent many years of your career in campus ministry. How did you end up in philanthropy?

I was familiar with Murdock from the grantee side, having written a grant and participated in some of Murdock’s leadership programs when I was a regional director with InterVarsity. But I wasn’t looking for a new job, much less a new career. A recruiter called me on a Monday about a position at the trust, with the application due on Friday. I assumed I’d say no, but I realized I should ask my community to join me in a discernment process, so I emailed them and asked for their prayer and insight. 19 of 20 came back saying I should apply, and the 20th simply had some additional questions. I scrambled to get an application in – one hour before the deadline, which if you know me, you’d know that I like to be ahead of my deadlines. After a long process of interviews, prayer, and discernment, to my surprise, I was offered the job. I had lots of misgivings about philanthropy, but it turns out I love what I do! Clearly, this was God’s plan, not mine.

Why do you love what you do?

I love working with non-profits. I’m always thanking them for the contribution they make – they’re laying down their lives for the world. There are a lot of evil and broken and hard things in the world, and it can be so easy for those things to fill our field of vision. But because I get to work with all these amazing non-profits, when I see the evil things I also have a picture of the people who are doing the beautiful and sacrificial work. This makes me hopeful.

What question are you currently working on, and would love dialogue from the community about?

We’re trying to figure out how to better measure and define impact. Both the impact of our applicants, but also our own. How do we know if we’re accomplishing what we want to? I’m very curious how other foundations define that, and how others in PCP work with evaluation and measurement of impact. What questions are they asking, and what are their answers? What have they tried, what is and is not working, what questions do they still have? I’d love to hear from others on this – email me!

What captures your time outside of work?

Right now, there’s one thing outside of work and family that gets my time, and it gets a lot of it! I’m pursuing a doctoral degree in Organizational Change and Leadership through the University of Southern California. The program is mostly virtual, but has some intensive immersions. I’m in a cohort of about 90, and it’s been incredibly rich. We come from a wide variety of sectors, but everyone is a professional who is leading change in their sectors. Learning how to lead, think through, and navigate change can be transformative. I love identifying problems and frustrations and seeking to solve them, and this program is sharpening my thinking and developing my skills around these areas.

What expertise or experience do you have that others should ask you about?

Many of us are facing lots of change, in multiple areas of life. I’m always happy to engage about this!

I have quite a bit of experience in thinking through culturally relevant practice in both philanthropy and the rest of life. I bring my own experience as an immigrant to the US at age 12 to this issue as well. Like Third Culture Kids, people who immigrate during their childhood often feel like they do not have a true cultural home anywhere. When I was younger this often felt like a curse, but there are so many ways in which it is also a blessing. There are lots of cross cultural dynamics in philanthropy that we need to pay attention to. How do we, as communities of faith, create a more thoughtful, robust, intentional conversation around these issues?

What do you look forward to celebrating in the next year?

If I may, I’m going to look a little further out, to 2024. I’ll celebrate my 25th wedding anniversary that year, and – if all goes according to plan – finish my doctorate. Then there will be much to celebrate!

How did you come to faith?

I’m not from a Christian home. After my family moved here from Taiwan, we settled in Orange County, CA, which was primarily white in those days. In my high school of 2,000, there were about 20 of us who were not white. But some classmates invited me to a local Chinese church, which served a lot of needs for our community. The pastor was a bi-vocational social worker, and his sermons were grounded in the context of the real world, which was so helpful. There, I was introduced to Jesus for the first time. It took me several years to think through many questions about faith, but during my Junior year, at a retreat, the Holy Spirit met me in a significant way, and I came to Christ. In college, with IV, I learned to really study the scripture and found a deep love for that, to pray, and to live a life of faith that is relevant.

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