After successfully pursuing a business major and an English minor at Rhodes College, Jackson, MS, native Elizabeth Morrison Warren ’12 decided that she had more to give to Memphis. Warren chose to invest in the city, with the hope of building a career devoted to increasing meaningful, accessible philanthropy.
Today, Warren is the director of grants and initiatives at the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis, a philanthropic organization that has been managing charitable funds in the greater Memphis area for 50 years. Warren oversees the foundation’s competitive grant programs, including its dollar-a-day giving program called GiVE 365. All of the foundation’s competitive grant programs are funded through pooled contributions and supported by community grantmaking processes. However, GiVE 365 is unique in that it is specifically geared toward making philanthropy widely accessible and democratic. Membership is open to any Memphian who contributes a minimum donation of $365 a year. Members participate in an annual grantmaking process, including voting where grant funds should ultimately be awarded, among other social and educational opportunities throughout the year.
Warren credits Rhodes for her affinity for the nonprofit sector and involvement in the Memphis community, starting with leading the tutoring program at nearby Snowden Elementary as a junior in the Kinney Program. “I think Rhodes does an incredible job of helping you find your place in the community and encourages you to keep knocking down doors until you find what feels right,” says Warren. “At Rhodes, I saw people who were genuinely excited about getting involved and working for the betterment of Memphis. I saw people who wanted to stay in Memphis and be part of its resurgence.”
Her path after Rhodes originally led her to a job in client relations at Memphis investment management firm Southeastern Asset Management, which she describes as an organization with a culture geared toward giving back to the community. “Working in investment management wasn’t exactly what I graduated intending to do, but luckily Rhodes prepares you to be nimble and to be prepared to do a lot of different things,” she says. Warren applied and was admitted to graduate school outside Memphis, but elected to defer her admission and remain in the city. “Literally, the day I chose to defer my grad school admission and recommit myself to Memphis, I joined GiVE 365 as a member. I think the opportunity that the program gave me to be a part of a group of more than 350 different people who are excited about Memphis and want to be a part of addressing the challenges and lifting up the great things about the city through grants was what made it so appealing.”
Being a GiVE 365 member introduced Warren to the broader work of the Community Foundation, and she joined the staff in 2017. Now, she enjoys being a part of delivering on its mission—strengthening the community through philanthropy—through GiVE 365 and the foundation’s other grant programs. Since 2010, GiVE 365 has awarded grants totaling $558,590 to 62 different nonprofits in the greater Memphis area, including programs at Levitt Shell and Hattiloo Theatre, in addition to building an endowment of $618,000 to sustain the program into the future. In 2020, GiVE 365 will celebrate its 10th anniversary.
Warren’s journey since leaving Rhodes has been one defined by discovery. “Rhodes was certainly instrumental in helping me realize that there isn’t just one job or one opportunity that is suited for me. The education that I was given, the ways that I was pushed by my professors, the support network I had, allowed me to explore in a lot of different ways. Rhodes made those opportunities for exploration very accessible.”
By Samuel Brown '21