Passion in spades – the work of the Abram Wilson Foundation

Passion in spades – the work of the Abram Wilson Foundation

Cause 4 Portraits

How do you define passion? It seems to have become a job interview cliché to declare yourself passionate about the role that you're applying for, whether it's a passion for figures, a passion for impeccable time management or dare I say it, a passion for the cause. There's only one thing here that I agree deserves true passion and that's the cause.

As a fundraiser it is often said that you will be more successful in your job if you're passionate about the organisation that you’re working for. Yours is that job that gets talked about, the one that you do because you love it and not just to pay the bills, you know the one? Working with my satellite organisation The Abram Wilson for Creative Arts reminds me day-to-day of what passion for a cause really means.

Image by Benjamin Amure

The Abram Wilson Foundation is a young organisation, having only been established for eighteen months and now going through the process of registering with the Charity Commission. The Foundation began after Abram Wilson, an acclaimed jazz trumpeter, composer and music educator from New Orleans died suddenly in 2012, leaving behind so many important ideas that he had yet to carry out. Abram's wife, CEO and Founder of the Foundation, Jennie Cashman Wilson made the decision to further the work Abram began, not just to continue his legacy, but because the work Abram was doing was too important to let stop.

Being in the early stages of the Foundation's life is exciting. The next 18 months’ work is based around The Philippa Project, a series of activity inspired by the life of the 1930s Harlem-born, mixed-raced, child prodigy Philippa Schuyler. The Philippa Project encapsulates the Foundation's mission; to help people who are facing challenging or transitional periods in their life discover their greatness through creative projects.  It encompasses Achieve Your Greatness, an education pilot programme, which will start by running in two London schools focusing on children from challenging backgrounds.  Achieve Your Greatness will incorporate the artistic strands of The Philippa Project which include an interactive sound installation based on a live recording of Abram's quartet performing compositions inspired by Philippa’s life; an immersive piece of jazz-theatre working with emerging and mid-career artists; and a live tour of Abram’s Philippa compositions.

Why does anyone decide to establish a non-profit start-up or create a foundation? I believe that the answer always lies with passion – it's a true belief that your idea, or cause, is important enough that the World should know about it. Jennie’s unerring passion (yes, I am going to call it that) is what made my decision definite to want to work with the Abram Wilson Foundation. There is nothing that instils confidence in an organisation more than belief in the person who is ultimately responsible for making sure that it is a success.

Having a satellite organisation is a requirement of the Arts Fundraising and Philanthropy Fellowship. It’s designed to be ten days pro bono work outside of our main organisational body with which we can gain a different experience and make an impact on their fundraising strategy. With the Abram Wilson Foundation, ten days isn't going to be enough. The sense of determination which is driving the Foundation forward is addictive, the work exciting and the cause is one that, undeniably, I find compelling, powerful and have a huge amount of enthusiasm for – if that's not passion, I don't know what is.

If you're interested in finding out more about the work of the Abram Wilson Foundation visit or email

Image by Benjamin Amure

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