For a may years, TFAS has encouraged students to do one more activity beyond their internships, meeting new people and exploring Washington: volunteer for a Saturday at a local nonprofit.“Service Saturday” has been a tradition enjoyed by students from various programs and disciplines as a different lens through which to view D.C.
“For students working on Capitol Hill, in journalism, businesses and think tanks it’s important to have an understanding of community and community problems. Community issues affect policy, news, etc. so this allows students to think critically about the work they are doing and how it affects society at large,” reads the statement from the “Service Saturday” orientation, which prepares students to do volunteer work if they choose during their TFAS experience.
Of course The Institute on Philanthropy and Volunteer Services (IPVS) students intern at nonprofits everyday, and contribute to a number of services in the D.C. area. The concept of giving back is a tenet of most TFAS experiences, with alumni and students choosing careers and activities that impact communities across the world.
IPVS Alumna Aids Nonprofit Effectiveness
Alumna Katherine Westlund Scott (IPVS 03), manager of nonprofit effectiveness at The Boston Foundation, helps 1,500 nonprofits and 2,000 nonprofit leaders yearly succeed in impacting communities around the world. The Boston Foundation connects nonprofits to potential supporters, helps them evaluate best business practices and find community resources. Scott directs an online platform, The Giving Common, where donors can learn about Massachusetts nonprofits and nonprofits can share their stories.
“At the Boston Foundation, our work is all about serving nonprofits. We’re one of the largest platforms in the nation to tell nonprofit stories,” Scott said. “Through our system, donors across the community can find nonprofits they care about and connect with them. We know nonprofits are the agents that are making Boston better. We try to lift them up so donors can help nonprofits doing work that they love.”
Scott said the great part of her job is being able to talk to the nonprofit leaders everyday because they are passionate about their work, and their impact in the community is visible. Scott said she always knew that she wanted to engage with foundations and work in philanthropy. In 2003 she attended IPVS, which at the time was operating in Indianapolis on the Indiana University campus (the program moved to D.C. in 2004). The program was an abbreviated version of the college’s unique and renowned philanthropy graduate course. After completing the TFAS program, Scott went on to attend Indiana’s graduate program and received two graduate degrees related to philanthropy that have been invaluable to her in the field.
“At TFAS I was surrounded by peers that were really interested in the field of philanthropy and even though we had different focuses, everyone was engaged and passionate. I began to understand it was possible to go to a program where other people wanted to change the world,” Scott said.
Scott has supervised interns and staff at The Boston Foundation and trained them how to build relationships and understand what’s going on at an organization and how they can contribute to the health of the nonprofit from the financial and operational aspect.
“The power of working to connect all these groups is that there’s an ever-growing population of people who care about their community,” Scott said.
Seeing Multiple Sides of D.C.
Regardless of whether students participate in IPVS or other TFAS programs “Service Saturday” invites students from all programs to volunteer at a local nonprofit for the day. In April, Capital Semester students visited DC Central Kitchen, a nonprofit food distribution program that incorporates local food systems and skills training.
Sara David (CSS 14) and the other TFAS students spent the evening chopping vegetables, boiling potatoes and opening canned meat at the Kitchen.
“It made me feel good to be here because I know I was helping out the community. Working with everyone is different than living or hanging out with them. It’s a good way to give back to the community and a good team building exercise,” David said.
Other D.C. area nonprofits where TFAS students have volunteered include:Jubilee Jobs, Capital Area Food Bank, Washington Parks and People, Food and Friends and Friends of Guest House.
D.C. has a vibrant nonprofit sector for students to participate in and learn from. In Washington the sector accounts for more than 26 percent of all private sector jobs, 16 percent of total workforce employment, and generates $46.4 billion in revenue annually.
Washington is filled with national nonprofit organizations and local charities, and provides direct access to influencers on Capitol Hill, giving nonprofit leaders a rare opportunity to engage in local, state, national and international work. The D.C. nonprofit sector’s location allows leaders and change-makers to understand the role that the private sector can play in providing social services and solving community needs without many of the limitations of government.
“Volunteering is a great chance for the students to get to know their new home. It’s a beautiful city that most see for its museums and monuments, but it isn’t a flawless city and faces its struggles like any other,” reads the Service Saturday orientation.
To find out how to get experience in nonprofits, visit the IPVS program page at www.DCinternships.org/IPVS.