My First Week at American Jewish World Service

Hi everyone! I have just finished my first week of my internship at American Jewish World Service. AJWS is a nonprofit organization that seeks to realize human rights and end poverty in the developing world. That mission statement is a mouthful, which is why I was so interested to learn more about all of the work that AJWS does.  I first found out about the organization a few years ago, when my cousin went on a service trip with AJWS to Ghana.  When I saw the posting on Hiatt’s B.Hired website, I got very excited because I already knew about some of the great work AJWS was doing.  I immediately replied and made an effort to speak with my cousin about her experience with the organization before my interviews, so that I’d have a more thorough understanding of its work.

This is the logo for American Jewish World Service.
This is the logo for American Jewish World Service.

My internship is located at the AJWS New York office in Manhattan. I am working in the Development, with both the Donor Engagement and Major Gifts teams.  Both teams assign me projects and I have a series of meetings with members of each team over the course of the summer, so that I can learn about the work that they do and their roles in the organization.

Currently, I am working on a few projects. My main project right now is to assemble issue-based portfolios for donors who are particularly interested in one aspect of AJWS’s work. Each issue will get one portfolio, which will aggregate all of the information on that topic. The issues I’m currently working on are women/girls, LGBTI rights/sexual health and rights, natural resource rights, disaster response, and peace/conflict work. I have really enjoyed working on these issues, and I think it’s a great project to start with because it has really exposed me to a lot of information about the organization. To create a portfolio, I have to go through hundreds of publications to find the right information, presented the right way. Through this, I have learned a lot about AJWS’s grantee organizations in developing countries, the grassroots organizing they are doing, and the diverse ways these small but empowered groups can create change.

The cover of a publication included in the "Women and Girls" issue folder.
The cover of a publication included in the “Women and Girls” issue folder.

My other projects are not as large-scale, but are also teaching me a lot about nonprofit development. I am helping to organize a spreadsheet of possible venues for AJWS’s upcoming gala fundraiser by looking at what other large nonprofits are doing. Additionally, I am working to research and organize data on donors in specific areas so that when AJWS hosts events there, they are able to invite everyone who might want to be involved. For some geographic areas, I am researching the Jewish community to determine the major institutions and organizations there.

In addition to the work I’m assigned, I also have the opportunity to meet many important people in the organization. Our internship program is very comprehensive, and includes the opportunity to have lunch with the president of AJWS, Ruth Messenger, as well as other members of the executive board! Additionally, AJWS has a tradition called “Brown bags,” where everyone brings their lunches to a conference room to listen to a visiting grantee speak about his or her experience.  This week, a grantee from Haiti came to speak about his work organizing young law students to form a legal accompaniment service for those who need it the most. I found this fascinating and was really glad to have the opportunity to hear him speak.

My first week at AJWS has been really great. It is a fantastic working environment- everyone is incredibly friendly and considerate, and made me feel at home right away. I am enjoying the work I’m doing, and I feel that my supervisors are inclusive and making a strong effort to help me understand development and the goals of AJWS. Aside from meeting with various members of the two teams I’m working with, I also got to participate in a training called “Social Styles,” which taught me a lot about professional styles in the work place. The other interns and I all discussed our personality types and were trained in meeting people where they are, creating a more cohesive and understanding working environment for everyone. This summer, I expect to learn not only about development and fundraising (including improving technical skills like databases and excel), but also to learn a lot about teamwork and professionalism. This is my first 9-5 job and I’m loving it so far!

Learn more about AJWS:

AJWS Website

Global Voices: The AJWS Blog Site

– Shira Almeleh ’14

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