Better Than Most is a regular feature of The Business of Giving, examining the best places to work among social good businesses and nonprofit organizations.
Denver: Tonight, we will be making our way to the Center for High Impact Philanthropy, commonly known as CHIP, located on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. A very collaborative and fun-loving workplace culture. Let’s hear about it starting with their founding Executive Director, Kat Rosqueta.
Kat: Last year, I’m not sure if it was in the Giving Guide or if it was another one of our major pieces, but we found three words that had been deleted editorially, and the team was concerned. Does that matter? We went back to our editor and said, “Oh my God, does this deserve an erratum?” To me, that’s just the level of conscientiousness and rigor that people on this team have.
“We have to talk about capacity. We need more capacity.” I’m like, I agree with you. We need more capacity. Next thing I know, I hadn’t noticed, there’s a giant box by their feet, and out of the box pops our latest team member. Capacity has arrived! To me, those are the two examples of what happens at CHIP. It’s a hybrid. It’s a combination of being very, very serious about the work and knowing not to take yourself too seriously because this work just has to keep going, and that means bringing in the humor and the goofiness like that story illustrates.
Molly: The culture at CHIP, what I would say from my vantage point, is just so much better than the culture of academia. I think it’s absolutely the people here. I think CHIP does an amazing job of finding the right people to fill the right positions, and that’s so crucial.
Han: I’m leading a new project, and I’m encountering every single obstacle you can imagine and leading a new project, but in a new area where it’s a first time really translating that knowledge from the beginning. Being able to have conversations with anyone in the team at any point in time when I get stuck has been really helpful as well.
Kate: It’s a very collaborative culture. Not to put a finger on the obvious, you are sitting with a whole bunch of women. We do have male -– there are male colleagues even though they’re not here today. But it’s always been heavily women, and I have to say, part of a close, much more collaborative, not a competitive culture; much more supportive, may have something to do with that.
Carol: We often at the university have all this amazing knowledge creation but yet often it seems like the application to others is missing, and I see this; CHIP and the people that it draws into have a perfect overlap of committed colleagues as well as mission that we want to get the knowledge that’s in the university out to be used.
Sarah: Then we have a screening exercise. It gives us a sense of how somebody works. It’s usually just a — this time I think we’re using annotative bibliography with a couple of articles, and it’s not right/wrong. It’s just how you give an assignment to someone, and what do they do with it. Do they ask a lot of questions? Do they not ask questions and not quite get it right? What is that interaction like? Again, that’s something I tell folks, if you don’t like doing this assignment, then you may want to re-think being here because this is typically the type of work. Ultimately, we try to meet everybody because I do think that given the collaborative spirit, it’s important that folks can work together, and I think it’s important for candidates to see how we work.
Molly: Because the team is so collaborative, I get to help out on projects or talk to people about projects and learn about them that are completely different from what I will be doing 10 minutes later. Which is great. I’ve learned so much about new topics. For the past year and a half, I’ve been focusing on education. I hadn’t done much in education before. I had to learn a new field. I get to be supported in doing that, and that’s amazing.
Mariel: One of my favorite things about this job is that we’re allowed to still be individuals. I can still be my weird self but everybody else is weird too. So, they can’t judge me. It’s just really good to come in and not have to put on formal airs or we’re relaxed. We still get our work done but we’re still relaxed. We still have a lot of fun. I have a Kanye West-like corner in my office. I don’t know how many people will let me have a Kanye West corner. I have stuffed animals, I have Legos. It’s a really fun environment.
Kat: I was an English Literature major in college, and one of my favorite things to do is to choose a book that I think somebody would really enjoy. At our holiday lunch, I give a book to every member of the team that I think they will enjoy and appreciate. So, that’s a tradition that I started way back when.
Kate: We’re trying really hard to monitor what we can monitor in terms; we send things out into the world, and we can see to some extent, who’s picking it up. But what actually happens concretely, we sometimes don’t know, and that can be hard. It can be frustrating. When you hear anecdotally or others, like somebody calls you up and says, you know I read the profile of this organization. I’m the ED of a family foundation, and this is in an area that we fund, and I didn’t know about them, and I’d really like to talk to them. That’s just a really great feeling.
Rebecca: Just thinking as an analyst and someone who likes doing research, it’s pretty cool the types of research we get to do here. When I reflect on it, I’m like, wow, this is kind of crazy. First of all, I’m a typical millennial in the sense that I get bored easily but I am never bored here. There is never a dull moment, and I think a big part of that comes from the fact that, for example, right now, I’m working on three projects.
Carol: The other thing I think I love about CHIP and I think of all; now I have roles at four different areas on campus, and I would say this is the one place where I feel like I can ask for what I need at work, and I know that coming to leadership like Kat, is I never feel afraid to ask as an employee. I think also that colleagues that are incredibly supportive and thinking proactively about how we can help each other. The culture of support I think is just amazing here.
Denver: I want to extend my thanks to all those who participated in this segment: Molly Sinderbrand, Hanh La, Kate Hovde, Rebecca Hobble, Carol McLaughlin, Sarah Gormley and Mariel Featherstone. To hear this again, read the transcript or maybe see pictures of the participants and the offices, simply come visit denver-frederick.com and we’ll put up a link to my full interview with Kat Rosqueta, the Executive Director of the Center for High Impact Philanthropy.
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