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Learning about mission-aligned giving in my summer internship

Summer intern Kayleigh Howard working at harp-weaver LLC.

Intern Kayleigh Howard at work at harp-weaver LLC.

By Kayleigh Howard, harp-weaver LLC Summer Intern

A place where community engagement and investment intersect. This is the type of professional opportunity that I sought out when searching for my summer internship this year. Bridging the gap between my civic involvement in the Bronx community and the spaces for development and opportunity in the Greater Philadelphia Area is something that I have felt strongly about since starting at Fordham University. Through the lens of harp-weaver LLC and its partnerships, I have been granted the opportunity to directly engage with mission-aligned giving that has tangible impacts.

My first opportunity to view the concrete outcomes that harp-weaver helps charitable foundations be a part of came on my first day in the office this summer. On this day, Teresa (harp-weaver’s founder and principal) and I drove down to Kensington, a neighborhood of Philadelphia, and watched the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new space of El Centro de Estudiantes, an intentionally small, accelerated school for young people ages 16-21 who had previously disconnected from school. While this building serves as a new home and place of learning for students, it also served as a representation to me of one of the many ways harp-weaver and the foundations it manages and advises create immense change in the Philadelphia area.

Following this, I became involved in a project with my co-intern, Chris, where we joined sessions centered around the strategic planning work of The Presser Foundation and analyzed some of the Foundation’s DEI work. We also had the opportunity to sit in on the Foundation’s annual Board meeting, where I gained a lot of insight into the decision-making processes of private foundations. I was especially interested to hear about the DEI initiatives that The Presser Foundation plans to incorporate into grantmaking in the coming years, such as the introduction of tribal colleges and universities into the Undergraduate Scholar Award program.

Additionally, this past month, I recently attended the Mindful Foundation’s Philanthropy’s webinar panel centering around women’s mental health and maternal mental health. We joined this to explore potential ideas for the work of one of harp-weaver’s foundation client’s grantees. During the webinar, the panelists emphasized ways that philanthropy can play a large role in connecting vast networks of organizations in the women’s mental health sphere. Through the panel, I learned that not only does philanthropy help nonprofits to grow, it also has the power and potential to bring organizations together under one umbrella serving a larger purpose. The forward-thinking mindset of the panelists about philanthropy and the influence of the nonprofit sector made me even more grateful to be a part of such impactful work at harp-weaver.

Lastly, one of the projects that has especially piqued my interest has been our work on an impact report for one of harp-weaver’s clients, a private family foundation. Organizing the spreadsheet that outlines the foundation’s grants and investments over the last twenty years has allowed me to see the enormous influence that grants of any size can have for nonprofits in achieving their goals. The impact report data has also helped shape my understanding of mission-aligned giving and the ways in which a foundation can grow their grantmaking and contributions over a long period of time.

When meeting with grantees and foundation clients this summer, the passion and drive of Philadelphia-based organizations and leaders has been abundantly clear and serves as a real testament to the city’s hardworking reputation. Even more so, these meetings have instilled in me a better understanding of the powerful role harp-weaver is able to play in helping determined clients’ visions come to life. This has fueled my anticipation to see what the rest of the summer holds as I continue my internship, and I look forward to continuing to foster the mission and success of harp-weaver moving forward.


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