A group of Penn alumni comes together every week to analyze data, develop reports and meet with clients. With different ages, work experiences and skillsets, these individuals would seemingly never cross paths — but their passion for nonprofit work has led them to a common crossroad.
They are volunteers of PennPAC, an organization that provides pro-bono consulting services to nonprofit organizations in the Philadelphia and New York City areas.
PennPAC is marking five years since its inception in fall 2011. Teams of six Penn alumni have been working with clients three to five hours per week for eight to 10 weeks, cumulatively providing over 15,000 hours of volunteer service.
“PennPAC seeks to leverage the pride and interest that Penn alumni express in interacting with other Penn alumni,” 1993 College graduate and PennPAC Executive Director Jackie Einstein Astrof said.
PennPAC members said the organization can resemble the atmosphere they experienced at Penn.
“When I receive emails from a fellow team member at 2 a.m., I am reminded of the tough projects and classes we worked on into the late night,” 2008 Wharton and Engineering graduate Atish Davda said. “I know that [the PennPAC volunteer’s] day job was tough, yet she gets right back to it when she gets home.”
PennPAC’s clients comprise a range of local nonprofit organizations of various sizes and missions.
“I really like meeting with the clients — groups of nonprofit leaders — who are very bright and dedicated people working with constrained resources,” 1994 Wharton MBA graduate and PennPAC Chief Operating Officer Anne Turner said. “I love seeing [the] transformation of the leaders in terms of their knowledge, look at the final deliverables, and receive their thanks.”
One of PennPAC’s clients was Zina Rutkin, director of Competent Kids, Caring Communities — an organization that implements social-emotional learning programs in elementary schools. When Rutkin approached PennPAC last spring, the nonprofit was running out of money and sought a strategic business plan.
“We thought we needed help in marketing, but [the PennPAC team] emphasized fundraising over marketing,” Rutkin said.
The sheer diversity of the PennPAC volunteers’ backgrounds and skills helps them support their clients in different ways.
Of the more experienced PennPAC members, Davda said they “looked at me equally and said that there [were] a lot of new skills they were not familiar with, such as social media.”
“The mindset at PennPAC is that I’m an expert in [a certain field], but you’re an expert in [a different field], so let’s combine skillsets,” he added.
PennPAC members do not work directly with the end recipients the nonprofits strive to assist.
“The communities we work in are not communities that have a lot of wealth or resources,” Rutkin said. “The volunteers understood that... and PennPAC provides a vehicle for people like them to make an impact...while still working full-time.”