Ariel Delaney '07 has the unique experience of interacting and collaborating with the largest private foundation in the world on a daily basis. As Senior Program Coordinator for the Financial Services for the Poor Team at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Delaney’s devotion to advancing the work of global nonprofits is a driving force for her career. Having worked for smaller nonprofit organizations dependent on fundraising for their survival in the past, she now finds joy in helping fund them.
"I love working with small first time Gates Foundation grantees that have not received major funding before but are passionate about the work they are doing," she said.
When Delaney graduated from Castleton in 2007 with a degree in Communication, specializing in Journalism, her goal was to become a foreign correspondent, traveling the world reporting the truth and exposing injustice. While serving an internship, at the WCAX news station in Burlington, Vermont, Delaney found herself missing the philanthropy work she had previously engaged in and made a professional career shift by joining the Peace Corps, where she knew then she could have a deeper impact.
"I hadn't thought about working in the nonprofit world as a career until I served as a Peace Corps community health volunteer in Morocco," she explained. "It was an eye-opening experience. I ended up applying for a grant in collaboration with local leadership to refurbish a well to bring clean drinking water to part of the village."
Her first successful grant was a rewarding experience, which led Delaney to enroll in the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University to learn the theoretical background for working in development. She received her graduate degree in sustainable international development and went on to accept philanthropic roles at international organizations, including Grounds for Health in Ethiopia and Nicaragua and Planned Parenthood.
"It’s been an exciting ride and I have learned so much in all the contexts I’ve worked in," she shared. "There is no linear career path. You have to take the bumps, ride the waves, and be willing to take roles that help you learn but may not ultimately pay the bills."
Delaney now lives with her husband and daughter in Lake Stevens, Washington. She has found a meaningful way to make a deep impact on many lives, including the world's poorest, as she manages an investment portfolio worth 60 million dollars with the mission of expanding the availability of affordable and reliable financial services, serves as Deputy Director of Malaria Partners International, and has a role on the board of the Philanthropic Education Organization.
"Castleton and Vermont are small portions of the world. It takes courage to go beyond what you know,” she said. “The world has so many possibilities. Try not to let the fear of the unknown prevent you from a new experience."
Hear more about Ariel Delaney's story as she presents as part of our virtual Every Woman Has a Story: Alumni Edition event in celebration of Women's History Month at Castleton on Wednesday, March 24 at 7 pm.