Reflections on UFE

I finished my internship at United for a Fair Economy last week. I was working on my projects up until the last minutes (literally!) and on my last day I wrote a list of my projects and any next steps to be taken on each one.

In the final analysis, I ended up doing more than I expected to this summer, and learning a lot. In the last couple of weeks, I launched my donor survey (first via email blast to a certain segment, then another to another segment, and then made postcards to send to donors whose email addresses we did not have on file).

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I analyzed the results that had come in already, was able to determine a portrait of the average UFE donor (of those who had responded to the survey — of course there is response bias) and shared the conclusions with the UFE staff. I discussed what these results tell us about how we’re doing in terms of responsiveness to donors and what UFE can do to keep it up and improve in the future.

I got the Spanish versions of my blog post and brochure edited, approved and finalized. I also created a card to put into regular mail appeals requesting that people make bequests to UFE.

Finally, I had a meeting with Suzanna (my supervisor) to discuss the summer. I came to the conclusion that this has probably been my best internship yet. I felt supported, respected, and like I was learning almost the entire time. The staff was wonderful, friendly, and clearly passionate about their work. They even held a goodbye celebration for me, with ice cream and a card and gift (a baking cookbook because I told them that I love to bake!)

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I learned a ton about development, about inequality, about how people work towards social justice every day, and about how non-profits function. These are absolutely important lessons that I will carry with me in my future studies and career. I plan to go into the non-profit sector, and this experience has both solidified that choice and given me a lot of the tools and knowledge necessary to do so.

I wrote a review of this internship on the Brandeis Internship Exchange, and when asked to give advice to other students considering this internship, I wrote:

“This was probably my best internship yet (and that’s saying a lot). It’s not all fun and exciting all the time (what job/internship is?) but if you’re willing to do some boring database stuff for part of the time, it will be rewarding. It’s a great group of people and it was clear that they care about their interns’ growth and well-being. Try to learn quickly and work independently, but don’t be afraid to ask questions or ask for help. Talk to all the staff members and learn about what they do – it’s really interesting stuff! My biggest piece of advice is to be ambitious and choose at least one project that you DON’T completely know how to do, then learn how to do it (ask Suzanna for resources or find your own). This is the best way to learn a new skill or technique, and they will be understanding and supportive during the process.”

Thanks, UFE, for making my summer great!

Learning and Creating at UFE

Wow, I can’t believe I’m over halfway through my time with United for a Fair Economy.

It’s been a very interesting, educational, and positive experience. I really enjoy interacting with all of the other people at UFE. They make me feel supported and appreciated, and I can’t stress enough how important that is at a job or internship. They are also supportive in teaching me things, giving feedback on my work, and collaborating to accomplish tasks.

After the end of fiscal year gift processing died down, I was able to accomplish a lot more on my individual projects – the projects I chose at the beginning and some more that came up along the way!

MataHari, with whom we share an office and consider a “sister” organization, had a great success recently with the passage of the Massachusetts Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights! We went to the signing and I wrote a blog post about it.

DWBoR1I also created a donor survey to find out more about who our donors are, their feelings and thoughts about UFE, what we’re doing well and what we can do better, etc.  Suzanna, the Director of Development, gave me some materials on donor surveys and helped me formulate questions. We’ll be launching that soon and tracking the results.

I also got to design a one-panel info card to replace their outdated brochure! It’s double-sided: English on one side, Spanish on the other (I even got to create a Spanish version of the UFE logo, which was quite a challenge! I’m still not sure I completely understand how paths work in Adobe Illustrator, but I managed). We tried to keep it simple and informative, attractive, and readable. After my first draft, I sent it out for feedback from the staff and worked with the new Communications Coordinator to make it consistent with UFE’s branding. I’m proud of the final product. And the Popular Education team is heading to an event this weekend, and bringing copies of my info card to hand out!

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I’ve learned more about the economy, as well. Suzanna lent me a copy of Inequality for All, the new documentary by Robert Reich on income inequality in the U.S. In meetings and other conversations, I’ve learned about interesting ideas such as post office banking. And one day, one of the Program Coordinators screened this great clip from John Oliver about the wealth gap.

I can’t believe I’m approaching the end of my time at UFE. Certain people have already started trying to convince me to stay instead of going back to school. 🙂 Although I won’t be able to do that, I’m appreciating the time I do have left.

An Introduction to UFE

I had a great first week as the development intern at United for a Fair Economy!

It was a wonderful welcome and I have learned a lot already. My first day started with a bagel breakfast so that I could meet the whole staff and get to know them a bit. Everyone is incredibly friendly and nice and welcoming, even to a lowly intern. 🙂  Jamie and Suzanna, my supervisors in the Development team, showed me around the office and gave me lots of materials to read about UFE, its work, and the development plan. They also introduced me to the database (of contacts, donors, donations, etc.) and showed me how to enter and find information and how to process gifts. Then it was my turn to do some gift processing on my own.

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Speaking of gifts, look what they gave me on my first day!

UFE is in a bit of a transition phase, with the recent departure of the Executive Director, a few other staff changes, and with a new five-year strategic plan that goes beyond education and awareness to focus more on challenging economic inequality. You can read more about this transition on the UFE blog. This meant that with so much going on in the organization, I was able to step up to the plate and be independent in my work even within my first few days, and my supervisors greatly appreciated that.

I also had the opportunity to choose some projects to take on for the summer. I will be creating a donor survey (in order to learn more about UFE’s donors and what we can do to improve future development campaigns) and also designing a new brochure for the organization. I will also be working on fundraising emails, mailings, and more during the day-to-day operations of the development team.

I found this internship through Hiatt’s B.Hired job & internship database. The listing caught my attention because the organization looked like one that I would like to work for and that I could learn a lot from. Economic inequality is an issue that I feel strongly about and on which I have worked in other ways – e.g. with the hunger and homelessness club at Brandeis and with an organization in Lima, Peru that works with people in a poorer community on local development projects – but never on a large-scale political level. And, although my interests lie more along the lines of communications, I knew that development is closely linked and would be another important skill-set to have. I applied for some other internships as well, but after my interview with Jamie I felt that this one would be a good choice.

The office is located in the Financial District of downtown Boston – a very interesting place. It’s bustling with people during the day, especially during the lunchbreak hours, and completely empty and closed up after about 7pm. The UFE office (it recently moved) is now across the street from a lovely little square that happens to be on the Freedom Trail. So, among the suited up businesspeople there are also lots of tourists and guides in colonial-era costumes. It’s quite an eclectic and interesting mix, and I enjoy my short walks for coffee and/or lunch during the day.

The square outside the UFE office!
view from my office window!

I am looking forward to learning a lot this summer – and I have already begun to! Personally, my goal is to gain experience and confidence in a professional environment. Specifically, I am looking forward to the experience of working in a small nonprofit with a complex, multi-level approach to socioeconomic inequalities. This presents a unique set of challenges, especially because of the wide range of actors and interests involved. Professionally, my goal is to learn how development functions are carried out in a nonprofit, as well as how that interacts with other functions, such as marketing and communications, and other operations of the organization. I also hope to gain experience in professional interaction with clients/donors. Academically, I hope to learn about economic inequalities – their causes, how they manifest in US society, and their effects. I also aspire to learn about the various actors and strategies involved in addressing economic inequalities.

I think it will be a good summer!