When I first started my internship at the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, I hoped to learn more about giving. In hindsight, I realized I had made a grave assumption that giving was just the giving of money. Maybe it stemmed from my experience on the nonprofit side, where asking for support always meant for funds, but my time here revealed that giving involves much more than just writing grant checks.
The great advantage of a small foundation is its intimate nature. As “just the intern” at many organizations, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle, but at the Illumination Fund, I never felt insignificant. Working in such close proximity with the team meant that they were easily accessible and happy to impart their knowledge of philanthropy to me. I spent time early in my internship mastering the administrative duties, which opened space for me to delve deeper into more personally interesting tasks, like sharing thoughts on project designs and blogging about grantee updates. I appreciated the balance of learning opportunities with work that nurtured my other skills, like web and graphic design. These skills came in handy with the foundation’s website re-design, and I also applied my organizational skills to the refinement of office processes.
The most valuable lesson that I learned came at the premiere of The Apple Pushers. A documentary film sponsored by us and directed by the talented Mary Mazzio, it chronicles the lives of immigrant street vendors enrolled in the NYC Green Cart program, a DOHMH initiative aimed at increasing the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables in food deserts in NYC and which is also sponsored by the Illumination Fund. While watching the film, I realized the incredible ability of individuals and small foundations to directly cause socio-political change. I learned that it was a chance meeting of Laurie and Mary that gave birth to this phenomenal film that left an entire theater buzzing about how they, too, could contribute to this healthy food revolution. Now that’s what I call Illumination.
I’m leaving with a new understanding that philanthropy is not just about the money; the money facilitates the action and its spark inspires change.
Tahira interned with the Illumination Fund for a year and will be starting work at Camp Interactive next week. The foundation staff will miss her very much and wishes her the best of luck.