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The political science research project goal was to investigate the impact of nonprofits in comparison to their tax exemption status. The aim was also to develop methods for defining and measuring impact, apply the measures via pilot studies of several Philadelphia-based nonprofit organizations, and to review scholarly literature for findings. The project was done under the mentorship of Professor John Dilulio at Fox Leadership Hall, along with the guidance of Dr Joe Tierney, the executive director of Fox Leadership Hall. My research experience was wonderful. The research atmosphere at Fox Leadership Hall was a vibrant, encouraging and inspiring. Professor Dilulio and Dr Tierney were always open to questions, and gave valuable advice my research partner Alicia and I, but without ever overwhelming us with their own opinions. We were always given room to explore and suggest various ideas about where to thought the projection could go, but at the same time guided so that we would not go too off track.
Having a research mentor gave us room to learn about how to begin research (starting from a big picture literature review that we did), and then to narrow it down to specific research on definitions, arguments, and calculations. This summer I learned so much about nonprofits in America, in terms of their history, growth and impact. We got to examine both qualitative aspects, as well the monetary value of impact. Something that was particularly enjoyable was coming up with a yardstick to measure the nonmember benefits. I learned a lot from the process of trying to weigh the various variables that formed a simple impact rating system that my partner and I developed. Then, we got to apply the measure for various nonprofits in Philadelphia, which allowed us to further tweak and develop it.
Research is something that I’ve always done a little of and have been curious about, so I’m really grateful for the opportunity in summer to experience research in greater depth. It definitely is challenging and requires lots of patience and persistence, but is also an intellectually enriching experience that has let me grow mentally in more ways than I ever did before.