Elizabeth Carlock Phillips – 20 Under 40

The Phillips Foundation
36 | SMU

Elizabeth Carlock Phillips is the executive director of the Phillips Foundation, a private family foundation that leverages its assets to maximize social, environmental, and financial value.

She says the most important part of her role is building relationships across fields and issue areas to support increased collaboration and understanding.

“Phillips Foundation does not take a programmatic approach to our work because we believe that innovation, and the solutions to many of society’s most pressing problems, require multidisciplinary strategies among various sectors and types of organizations,” she said.

Growing up in Highland Park, Phillips says she’s benefited from working with many local nonprofits over several decades.

For example, New Friends New Life, a North Texas anti-trafficking organization, started at the church she and her family used to attend.

“That was very formative in my life and educated me on an issue I may not have otherwise encountered,” Phillips said, describing the Park Cities as a philanthropic community that has provided her with role models. “My interest in nonprofit governance, social innovation, and impact investing only continued to grow into adulthood and has become my career.”

Her volunteer work includes serving on the board of the National Center for Family Philanthropy, Mission Investors Exchange, SMU’s Maguire Center for Ethics, Tanger Center for the Performing Arts, and The Dallas Foundation, where she chairs the investment committee.

Some of her past involvement has included founding Echelon, the young professionals auxiliary for The Salvation Army, and serving as a previous board member and governance chair of the Texas Women’s Foundation. She was also a governor-appointed trustee of UNC Greensboro for eight years.

What was your first job, and what did you learn from it?

My first job was working at Swoozie’s when it first opened in Preston Center. I think I was about 15. I would organize and stock shelves, gift wrap, and work the register. It taught me how to treat people. You remember how the rude customers made you feel and appreciate the kind ones.

Who’s your biggest inspiration and why?

My late brother, Trey Carlock, is my biggest inspiration in the work I lead currently. He was a Kanakuk abuse survivor who was silenced to his grave in a retraumatizing legal process that involved a restrictive NDA. … I’m working at the local, state, and federal levels to ensure survivor voices have a seat at the table in important reform efforts.

Where do you see yourself and/or your career in 10 years?

I received my certification in crime victim advocacy last year and am considering law school as a next step. I also plan to follow in my 11-year-old son’s footsteps and publish a book or two (Check out The Magic Island Chronicles by William G. Phillips!).

What (or who) motivated you to get involved in the community?

Sadly, some of my earliest childhood memories pertain to visiting sick friends at Children’s Medical Center. I actually had two childhood friends die from cancer. That experience led me to want to donate my birthday presents to children in the hospital and help however else I could. My parents also encouraged my interest in helping people experiencing homelessness, which led me to pursuing volunteer opportunities in middle and high school. I now have three children of my own, who inspired me to start an app for kids interested in learning about philanthropy from an early age. It’s called Give As We Grow, and it launched last November in partnership with Giving Tuesday, leading to thousands of downloads and even a shoutout on Good Morning America!

What is your favorite local restaurant or shop?

I love supporting St. Michael’s Woman’s Exchange in Highland Park Village because the proceeds from their store’s sales go to community needs. I think last year they raised something like $600,000 for grant recipients, and it’s all done by a corps of church volunteers. Pretty amazing, and one of the best places in town to pick up a unique present or accessory! I love shopping for a cause. They do gift wrapping, too!

What’s on your bucket list?

There’s still so much of the world I’d like to see, especially with my curious and adventurous family! There are also so many laws I’d like to see changed after what I have learned from my brother’s tragic story and in working with so many other trafficking and abuse survivors. The main one at the moment is reforming civil statutes of limitations, which prevent child sexual abuse survivors from accessing the courts after a certain age. I’ve been particularly active in lobbying for those reforms in Missouri and Texas, in partnership with CHILD USAdvocacy.

How do you motivate yourself and others?

Life is short, and we each have a mission. I’m very motivated to make the world better for my children and future generations. Making sure every day counts is how I stay motivated, and I get to work with an amazing team with shared passions and focus. I appreciate my team so much, because one person can only get so far alone. And the journey is only as sweet as the people on it with you. I’m also so grateful for my husband, friends and family who make life fun and keep me grounded.

What’s a fun fact that someone wouldn’t know about you?

I am a classically trained pianist who performed in front of some rather large audiences in my prime (If you know, you know)!

What would you tell an 18-year-old you?

I’d tell her you have a lot to look forward to, and you’re strong enough for all that’s to come.

What advice do you have for other young professionals?

Pave your own path, and it’s never too late for a detour or pivot to follow something you’re passionate about — that’s when the magic happens. And, there’s no replacement for hard work.

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