Fairmount’s day-to-day client work is continually enriched by the skills and insights of our graduate-level Research Assistants. Working a flexible 10 hours a week around their studies, RAs help generate a wide range of data to inform our consulting team’s strategy recommendations – socio-economic and census information, background on funder grantmaking priorities and awards, competitor reviews, research-informed best practice, and donor wealth capacity and philanthropic giving history, among others. This latest spotlight on our team features RA Matthew Forrest (University of Pennsylvania, MPA, Fels Institute of Government Class of 2019), whom we asked to share more about his expertise and experience working at Fairmount Ventures.
FV: What drew you to working at Fairmount as you pursue your advanced studies?
MF: I have always been fascinated by how organizations can do what they do better in order to achieve their social impact goals. After a handful of years doing field-based program management, I returned to graduate school to broaden my skillset and gain a deeper understanding of how public sector organizations could be more successful in fulfilling their mission. I saw Fairmount Ventures as the natural extension of this goal and an opportunity to see “under the hood” at the type of work done to assist organizations in being more effective in fulfilling their mission. The fact that Fairmount works with a variety of clients has provided an outstanding opportunity to broaden my understanding of how various organizations across sectors approach capacity building, fundraising, or strategic planning while gaining experience in the type of work that goes into helping these organizations make informed decisions about where to go next.
FV: How do your personal, academic, & professional experiences inform your work at Fairmount?
MF: I grew up in Chicago and moved back following college to serve for two years in AmeriCorps working in social services before moving to Philadelphia to work in the education field. Living in two of the largest cities in the country, and working for nonprofits striving to make an impact in these settings, opened my eyes to the challenges organizations face in moving the needle on an issue while struggling to make time to think more strategically about how to do their work better. I try to bring this outlook and understanding into everything I do, at Fairmount and beyond: to think about and identify what information will best support me, my colleagues, and the communities we serve in being more effective in doing our work. From there I challenge myself to present that information in a meaningful way that would best accomplish that goal.
FV: What are some of your favorite Philadelphia extracurricular activities?
MF: Philadelphia has a great food scene and culture with so many amazing restaurants tucked into every corner of the city – every street you turn onto uncovers some new one-of-a-kind restaurant. The Free Library does an amazing speaker series and provides the chance to see some amazing authors for next to nothing (often free!). I love history and architecture, so just getting out and walking around Philadelphia is an experience in itself. And I’ll never pass up the opportunity to plug independent book stores. Philadelphia has some of my favorite places – Last Word Bookshop in University City, Head House Books in Queen Village, and Shakespeare & Co in Rittenhouse Square – to get lost for an afternoon.
Looking for a flexible position to learn more about the nonprofit sector as you pursue an advanced degree, or know someone stellar who is? See our Research Assistant job description and application process on our Careers page.