In the fall of 2018, I was living in Ecuador and working for an international gap-year program. As the mid-year mark rolled around, I hounded participants to take surveys and searched for an internship back in Philly. In the midst of survey-chasing, I realized I did not understand why the survey information was desired by the organization. I continued to come back to a conversation I previously had with Nina Hoe, ImpactED’s Director of Research and Evaluation. I knew that ImpactED’s “two arms” of work, evaluation and development, would allow me to explore these questions. And it did! I can attest to the lessons I learned as an ImpactED Fellow over the last year and how that will continue to impact my trajectory. 

Understand the importance of the nonprofit sector. As a recent graduate of Temple University’s College of Education & Liberal Arts, the nonprofit sector was woven into many of my classroom conversations. While the sector was continuously discussed, most undergraduates (like myself) had limited exposure to the actual industry. More often than not, those experiences were short-lived internships and brief volunteer hours. The opportunity to work with ImpactED provided me with a better understanding of the nonprofit landscape. Further, I was able to witness nonprofits like the Independence Seaport Museum navigate their own evaluation process. Through supporting the data analysis efforts for their SAILOR Boatbuilding Program, I was able to understand how they were achieving their mission of “deepen[ing] the understanding, appreciation and experience of the Philadelphia region’s waterways through history, science, and art, plus experiences on the water.” 

Discover the power of authentic networking. Early on in my college career, a leader in the nonprofit realm (who doubles as a family friend) encouraged me to establish my approach to networking. Throughout school, networking is referenced a lot. Yet, in my experience, the how-to’s of networking were never formally laid out, not to mention how to network in a way that aligns to your personality type. When I began to work on the DiverseForce On Boards (DFOB) program with ImpactED, I was struck by the natural networking that took place among participants, instructors, and panelists. Countless times, I observed that the simple act of remembering someone’s name goes a long way in building meaningful relationships. 

Engage with evaluation work that deepens organizational identity. If you are a Philadelphia sports fan, you know the Sixers’ motto: Trust the Process. This slogan also carried The Pew Fund Evaluation Capacity Building Initiative (ECBI) participants through their first year. The saying could be applied to my experience with ImpactED as well. I admittedly knew little to nothing about evaluation when I joined the ImpactED team. Nearly a year later, I now understand the process, including logic models and beyond—but more importantly, I value it. I value it because I saw first hand how data informs the work of organizations. For example: TeenSHARP, an organization that prepares students of color for top colleges, shared the findings of a comprehensive evaluation with their board this summer. The findings informed the board retreat and guided constructive conversations which ultimately allowed for the executive team and board to better align. This alignment presented the opportunity for the organization to deepen its identity. Evaluation guides the process. 

Above all, my time with ImpactED leaves me energized to join the folks in Philadelphia dedicated to using data to promote a positive city environment and experience. My learnings would not have been possible without the support of the talented people that make up the ImpactED team. So I leave you with this: Take the surveys in your inbox. They inform way more than you think! 

Isabel Nardi recently concluded her term as an ImpactEd Fellow. She has a Bachelor of Science in Human Development & Community Engagement and a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish from Temple University.