Your Impact:  Philanthropy Gets Personal

Megan Zuckerman FR'12


Where do you work and/or volunteer for?  

My primary volunteer commitment is with the New York Junior League (NYJL), an organization of women whose mission is to advance women’s leadership for meaningful community impact through volunteer action, collaboration, and training. I am entering my 10th year volunteering with the organization and currently serve as the Training Council Head, overseeing three committees that each train our members (over 2,300 of them!). Other roles I have held include co-chair of our 120th Anniversary Cookbook Task Force, Nominating Committee Member, and Provisional Training Leader, where I work with new members of the organization. 

In addition to the NYJL, I am also the Class Ambassador for the SYA France Class of 2012. Some of my personal highlights include meeting our goal of 25% participation in the SYA Fund to sponsor a scholar in the France Class of 2023 and co-hosting our 10th reunion in June 2022, which nearly 20% of the class attended. 

The Billion Oyster Project designs STEM curriculum for NYC schools through the lens of oyster restoration, building reef structures in New York Harbor. As secretary of The Young Leadership Committee, I continue the organization's mission through events, volunteering and team excursions. As a member of the Central Park Conservancy's Greensward Circle, I am part of the network of young professionals who support the ongoing restoration and maintenance of Central Park through volunteerism and philanthropy. Lastly, as a member of the Museum of the City of New York's Director's Circle, I am part of the committee of young professionals that guide the future of the Museum through special events. 

What is it about the mission of the organization(s) that resonate(s) with you? 

While I do not live in New York City, I attended college at Fordham Lincoln Center and lived there post-graduation. I feel connected to the city as my family roots go back four centuries! I enjoy volunteering with the NYC-based nonprofits as I can impact the city I love. I particularly enjoy volunteering with the NYJL, as the all-women's membership aspect is empowering and inspiring. 

In terms of volunteering with SYA, I have found that I appreciate my SYA experience even more as an alumna than I did as a student (even though I of course absolutely loved my year in France!). I realize just how lucky I was to have this life-changing experience. Volunteering as a Class Ambassador with SYA provides a chance to ensure that other students can attend SYA. Ironically enough, I chose not to study abroad while in college, as I was too invested in my volunteer work in NYC to leave, so I am especially happy that I had the experience of studying abroad while in high school! 

How do you feel your unique skills, experience and perspective further the organization’s cause? 

Professionally, I am the PR & events manager at an educational consultancy and use my public relations skills to secure media placements for the different organizations that I volunteer with. Some highlights for the NYJL include a feature in Harlem World Magazine about our Playground Improvement Project and fundraising events coverage in Avenue, Guest of a Guest, New York Magazine, New York Social Diary, Quest, and WWD. The NYJL had not been featured in the media in several years, so I am immensely proud of this accomplishment as it allows us to get in front of prospective members, community partners, donors and event attendees. I have also secured media placements for the Central Park Conservancy's Greensward Circle's Evening at the Water benefit and Search & Care's Yorkville Ball. 

What have you learned or gained, personally and/or professionally, through your work and/or volunteer experience? 

Having joined the NYJL while I was a sophomore in college, the organization has really been there throughout my career trajectory, from deciding on my major to applying to internships to eventually entering the job market. I credit the organization for a lot of my successes, as I was able to develop confidence, learn from mentors and identify what I wanted to do post-graduation. More tangibly, I would say that the greatest skills I have learned from my work with the organization are leadership delegation and supervising others. In my current role as a council head, I oversee six co-chairs and an associate, helping them to achieve their personal goals as leaders and to effectively lead their committees. This leadership experience prepares me to manage team members in a professional setting. 

When I was laid off in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NYJL served as an amazing opportunity to continue building my professional skills and keep up a routine. For the six months that followed, I treated the NYJL as my job and would sit down at my computer from  each day working on tasks. This helped me tremendously mentally, as I was still able to be productive during such a tricky time, but also professionally as I kept my communication, organizational and other skills in shape. 

What advice would you give to someone interested in building their career in the nonprofit sector or volunteering for an organization that resonates with their philanthropic priorities? 

There is no limit to the types of nonprofits available to volunteer with — especially if you live in a large metropolitan area. I found all my volunteer opportunities by searching online, so I encourage others to use the web to find organizations that align with their personal priorities and interests! Also reach out to your friends, families and coworkers for suggestions. Even if you start small with what might seem like a light time commitment, your efforts and hard work will still be valued by the organization, and you will learn a lot in the process as well.

Did your experience at SYA play a role in your endeavors? If so, how? 

Yes, definitely! I joined the NYJL in 2014 as a sophomore in college, as I was looking for opportunities to be part of a close-knit community. The SYA community was by far one of my favorite aspects of my year abroad. I loved the close bonds between classmates and the fact that we could strike up a conversation with one another so easily, even if we didn't have any classes together or saw each other infrequently. Two years out of my SYA experience, I was missing this sense of community, so I researched organizations in NYC that would allow me to join a similar community of like-minded women. I was thrilled to find the NYJL and have been so blessed to meet so many wonderful women who have supported me both personally and professionally. 

Additionally, my role as the Class Ambassador for the SYA France Class of 2012 has allowed me to develop important skills to use in other philanthropic roles and my career, including fundraising, event planning and interviewing applicants.