Piecing Together a Philanthropic Puzzle
By Leslie Wells
"Wherever there are opportunities to dig in and make a difference, that’s where I end up landing,” says Angela Carr Klitzsch, SPEA MPA’06, Nonprofit Management.
Carr Klitzsch’s current landing pad is at the helm of EmployIndy.
When she took the position as president and CEO in 2016, she wanted to connect employers to those most in need of work in Indianapolis. In just two years, her efforts and those of her staff, have already made a tremendous difference.
“When I stepped in the door here, we had more than a million dollars on the books that we could not spend because we couldn’t find the clientele to spend it on,” she recalls. “We have the complete opposite problem now.”
Her work has now spanned each sector of philanthropic, nonprofit, and government work, adding to her lifelong commitment to social justice and equity, and giving her a better understanding of the big picture of philanthropy.
After completing her undergraduate degree, she worked in direct-service nonprofit management by joining the Peace Corps in the Republic of Moldova.
When she returned stateside, Carr Klitzsch landed in Washington, D.C., and turned her attention to how her education could help her serve those in need in new ways. Her nationwide search for a master’s program led her to SPEA.
“I chose SPEA – and specifically the Indianapolis campus – because I wanted the ability to learn how to do the work and then immediately be able to apply it,” she says.
Carr Klitzsch knew SPEA’s “business degree with a heart,” as she calls it, combined with the downtown location would give her access to nonprofits, policymakers, and business executives – the people she needed to make an impact.
When she began her MPA program, she also served as a graduate assistant for faculty members while working for organizations such as the Center for Urban Policy and the Environment and the Clowes Fund.
Her position with Clowes gave her unique insight into what it takes to support nonprofits and how the nonprofit sector and philanthropic organizations operated in other communities.
Carr Klitzsch later joined the Central Indiana Community Foundation. She spent time in Indianapolis’ neighborhoods, looked for ways to address issues of equity, and provided support to nonprofits.
“We were really trying to ensure these organizations were using best practices in their services, while lifting them up so they could make sure that they would be around in perpetuity,” she says.
Yet Carr Klitzsch knew there were other options for that all-important support to the direct-service organizations. So she decided to pursue a new piece of her philanthropic puzzle: private businesses.
She worked with JPMorgan Chase’s corporate foundation to help businesses better understand the impact and value of community investment.
“It was a perfect nexus of being a translator,” she says. “I was able to educate the private sector and business community, then do an about-face and work with the nonprofit sector and community-based organizations.”
But there was a question she hadn’t yet answered: what is government’s community development responsibility compared to that of nonprofits, philanthropic organizations, or public-private partnerships?
“The more I got involved, the more I saw there were structural issues that needed to be addressed right now,” she recalls.
Carr Klitzsch answered Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett’s call to lead EmployIndy, revealing another part of a puzzle she had worked to piece together throughout her career. Having made her way through direct service, intermediary support, and now into the government sector, Carr Klitzsch stops to reflect on the role SPEA has played in that journey.
“It’s a rare commodity, but SPEA was set up specifically for those intersections between the three different sectors,” she says. “I’m a better practitioner because of SPEA. I’m more aware and knowledgeable about community issues. I have the skills to investigate those issues and I know who to talk to when understanding the different levels of government, nonprofit, and private sectors, as well as how they all interface together.”
One of the most impactful lessons came through her SPEA capstone course. Her class presented its recommendations on their project to then-Mayor Bart Peterson. She says those recommendations became a foundation for the city’s future neighborhood improvement initiatives.
“That’s why we’re doing this,” she says. “You see something that needs to be addressed or something that needs more research, and you do it so you can help people make informed decisions.”
Those decisions impact the community Carr Klitzsch now calls home. While she admits she and her husband didn’t intend on staying in Indianapolis, she says the connections she made through SPEA allowed them to put down roots and expand their impact.
For Carr Klitzsch, that includes giving back to the school she says changed the trajectory of her life. She serves on SPEA’s Distinguished Alumni Council, ensuring the schools curricula stay true to what’s happening in the world beyond campus, helping students prepare for that world, and providing important connections for its members.
“You stay close to your brethren who are also in this space and who can educate you in their core area, whether it’s public health, nonprofits, or environmental,” she says. “They can provide you a better understanding of the specific issues with which they work, but everyone there still has the understanding that they’re just one piece of a larger puzzle.”
Yet when those puzzle pieces come together, they showcase the wide range of applications for a SPEA degree and how connections between alumni still impact our communities.
“I sat next to a gentleman who was a Google executive and he asked me what I did,” she recalls. “After discussing workforce development, Google reached out to us and is trying to help agencies like workforce development boards use new tools that are focused on data analytics. That never would have happened if we weren’t sitting next to someone at the table, too.”
As for the next phase of Carr Klitzsch’s journey?
“I moved to Indianapolis for SPEA and I have no plans to go anywhere right now,” she says. “I still have a lot of work I can do at EmployIndy; I’m not tapped out. My grandfather always said ‘to those who are given much, much is expected.’ I have a responsibility I need to fulfill. And SPEA is helping me do that.”