Megan Foo's Blog

Our Featured Givologist of the Week: Elise Jun, Givology's Chief Information Officer

[b]MEGAN FOO: What is your background? How did you hear about Givology?[/b]
[b]ELISE JUN[/b]: Givology was founded at The University of Pennsylvania; Joyce [Meng] and Jenn [Q Chen] started it while they were at Penn. When I entered my freshman year, one of my close friends was on the marketing committee for Givology and she told me that the Chief Information Officer position had opened up. I’ve always been passionate about nonprofits; in high school I was super invested in nonprofits and development is my major right now, so she knew that I would be interested in another nonprofit so she told me about it. I really liked Givology’s model so I decided to apply for the position and I got it! That’s how I got involved with Givology; it was actually through a friend.
But I had heard about Givology before; on Penn’s campus it’s pretty well known because it’s one of the more successful and larger nonprofits started by Penn alumni. So I’d heard about it before but I was really excited to get involved with it so I applied.
[b]MEGAN FOO: What nonprofits were you involved with in high school?[/b]
[b]ELISE JUN[/b]: I was really involved with Operation Smile, which is really big here in Nicaragua, and I also volunteered teaching English at a local public school and every weekend, I would volunteer at an orphanage to give food and teach art and basic writing classes to children.
[b]MEGAN FOO: Can you tell me about some of the Givology projects or campaigns that you have supported over the years?[/b]
[b]ELISE JUN[/b]: I was most recently involved with the book project; I helped with the editing and the promotional efforts of [u]A Guide to Giving[/u] on Penn’s campus. Basically, my role is more of like the organization and the background, behind-the-scenes work of Givology, keeping everything organized, maintaining documents and the intranet. I come on to projects whenever I can but my other main responsibility is updating the students’ files. I would say that on a day-to-day basis that’s what I mainly focus on, updating student profiles and project updates from our partners.
[b]MEGAN FOO: What is the most challenging aspect of being Chief Information Officer?[/b]
[b]ELISE JUN[/b]: I think that we have a lot going on, we have so many people that are so involved – which is amazing, I’m not complaining about that – but I think that it’s my job to keep everyone updated and focused on their tasks so that we have an organized database in a central location for people to refer to. Because there’s just so many things that’s going on at the same time, it can get difficult to keep track of every one of them and to be on top of everyone and asking them to keep the intranet updated and send any relevant or important documents. I think that that’s the most challenging aspect of being CIO. Then again, I don’t want to complain about having so many excited projects and so many passionate volunteers.
Because we do everything over email and conference call, that gives me more to do, which is great, but it makes it more essential to archive emails and shared documents because they can get lost in the overwhelming amount of emails that we get.
[b]MEGAN FOO: What do you enjoy the most about your volunteering?[/b]
[b]ELISE JUN[/b]: I like that so many people are passionate about Givology – about something that we all share – and yet we all bring to the table something so distinct, all those different skillsets mixed in with our combined passion for Givology is what makes Givology run. I love Givology’s model because you can bring together people that are passionate, people who don’t need the incentive of money to really do substantial work. That’s what I really like about volunteering with Givology, that you see so many people who are so invested in Givology; who spend so much time and give so much of their own talents to Givology. Learning from other people who have skillsets that I don’t have, and just seeing it all come together to create amazing projects and actually having an impact, I just love seeing that and that process.
[b]MEGAN FOO: What are your hopes for the future of Givology?[/b]
[b]ELISE JUN[/b]: I think Givology has already achieved so much; in the future, I hope that Givology’s model inspires other nonprofits because I think it’s a model that really works and shows that nonprofits can be 100% transparent, 100% volunteer-run and that things can still get done. I think maybe making more big partners, our being featured in [u]Half the Sky[/u] and having a partnership with the M. Night Shyamalan Foundation (MNSF) – those are huge stepping-stones for Givology and getting our name out there. I hope that in the future that Givology becomes the main funding source for education projects because I know that there are so many nonprofits, so many grassroots organizations that we still haven’t touched yet that are doing amazing things but who don’t have a funding. I think that if we get these big platforms and get our name out there; it’d be great to see Givology being utilized for what it has to offer and for it having more of an impact than it has already.
[b]MEGAN FOO: What would you say to someone who’s considering volunteering with Givology?[/b]
[b]ELISE JUN[/b]: I would say that volunteering is all about having the passion so if you’re considering volunteering with Givology you really have to believe in its model. You have to really believe in what Givology does and what it stands for. You have to be passionate enough to work for it without getting paid, work for it for the joy of just volunteering or whatever reason it is to you personally, I would just give them advice on just telling them to do something that they like. Don’t do it just for a resume builder because that’s not how volunteering works. You can’t get things done, you’re not going to spend your time or your efforts on something you’re not passionate about, and I think Givology really shows that. I think that everyone who stays on board, everyone who contributes to a project shows that they’re doing it because they’re passionate, not just because it’s something to put on your resume or something that’s going to help you out in the future, in that sense. So I would say only do it if it’s something you’re really passionate about. And if education for example isn’t what you’re passionate about, then don’t do Givology but find another great nonprofit or social enterprise out there that focuses on something that you’re really passionate about and just channel your energy and talents into that.
[b]MEGAN FOO: Can you tell me a bit about Givology’s Penn Chapter?[/b]
[b]ELISE JUN[/b]: I wasn’t initially in Givology’s Penn Chapter but this past year there was a re-vamping of the Penn chapter and I became the liaison between the Penn Chapter and Givology’s core team because there wasn’t that much communication and they felt like they were out of the loop. I am now more part of it, but there are separate presidents and vice presidents for that.
I think that the Penn Chapter has a special place in Givology because that’s where it was founded and they have a lot of potential and a lot of energy to start off from, but I feel like because Givology as the core group – the group that calls in from the conference calls – is different from our chapters, it’s difficult sometimes to define what responsibilities belong to the chapters specifically and what responsibilities belong to just the core team and what responsibilities overlap. For example, if there are certain projects that both can help contribute to or certain projects that are more just for the chapters or projects that are more just for the core team, you know to define those roles, I think looks difficult.
Being the liaison is trying to connect interests of the Penn Chapter and participating in a certain project; if there is, then I let Joyce know, I let the Penn Chapter know which conference calls they should be on, and just try to help them try to generate more student body interest as well. I think that that’s just my primary role, trying to keep them in the loop about what the core team is doing so that they’re not missing out on any opportunities to help, and at the same time helping them push forward on their own projects without the core team also.

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