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Featured Professor: Prof. Kimberly O’Donnell


Kimberly O’Donnell knows first-hand how an internship can directly affect a career path.  While in college O’Donnell worked as an intern and it lead to a full-time position after graduation. So, when U.S. Programs Vice President Shane Mazzella approached O’Donnell to teach the Internship Seminar for the Institute on Philanthropy and Voluntary Service (IPVS), O’Donnell loved the idea.

As a member of the TFAS faculty, O’Donnell brings her knowledge and past experience to each class. The students benefit from her firsthand perspective from philanthropic industry.  She is currently chief marketing officer at WealthEngine.com which serves nonprofit and financial organizations with a wealth identification screening tool.

I’m passionate about the nonprofit sector and want to share that passion with my students because every ounce of dedication to the nonprofit sector equals a better community, a stronger world and a more promising tomorrow.  I put my heart and soul into offering the best material and most inspiring class for the students.”

An important aspect of the Internship Seminar is the guest speakers. Students hearin from a range of individuals including Beth Lovain, founder of Into Safe Arms of Northern Virginia as well as John Bridgeland from Civic Enterprises.

“There is nothing better than hearing first-hand about the trials and successes of people who are—day in and day out—helping society.”

Each year the students participating in the Internship Seminar read the book, “Begging for Change,” by Robert Edgar, founder of D.C. Central Kitchen.  This year, Edgar will be given the David R. Jones Award for Leadership in Philanthropy at the IPVS Luncheon.

Over the five years she has been teaching for IPVS, colleges and universities have added new majors and minors that directly focus on the nonprofit sector.  Classes and programs have been created and added for an industry that has been around for years, but has not received the same attention as other industries.  O’Donnell has noticed that today’s students are better informed than ever about the philanthropic sector.

“The students in IPVS are so smart and they bring a wealth of experience from both their nonprofit management programs in school and their leadership in philanthropic causes.  This means that we are training youth today to stand up and take action in big ways and the nonprofit management programs at the university level reinforce this leadership. While my students come from a background of mixed degrees, more and more arrive with better knowledge of the nonprofit sector and a deeper commitment to being a catalyst for the greater good.”

Students entering the nonprofit sector have a different set of challenges than those entering for-profits.  O’Donnell recognizes that those entering the nonprofit sector have two large challenges in front of them.  The first is the problem of job burn out in the nonprofit sector.

“Salaries can be low and hours can be long but the return on the investment is great from a community perspective. Students working in the sector need to keep their eye on the big picture during their daily struggle to raise money, implement programs and evaluate efficiency within an organization.”

And secondly, new nonprofit leaders need to bring with them their knowledge of technology and media ways.

“Students and alumni can show their nonprofit supervisors the value of Internet networking and research tools to create communities of volunteers and donors which in turn will foster advocacy for a cause.”

When the classes finish in August, O’Donnell hopes that her students will walk away with the belief that they can make a change in the world and those in need.

“I hope that they dedicate themselves to life-long activism in the nonprofit sector—as a volunteer, donor and possibly as an employee. At the end of their IPVS summer, my students have the tools they need to give wisely and grow professionally. In return, they give me inspiration to continue my own quest to help others and practice sensible philanthropy.”

Mother of two young children, O’Donnell works for WealthEngine, an internet based research service to provide development staff with immediate access to some of the most well-known publicly available databases. She also serves on the board of Stop Child Abuse Now (SCAN) of Northern Virginia and has signed on to advise Computer CORE, a program that teaches computer skills to under employed communities, on their marketing efforts.


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