Well, my last assignment for AFJ is finished. My office is packed. My good-byes have been said. It’s really strange to think that I won’t be researching foundations in areas where we are expanding our Bolder Advocacy Initiative anymore. I find it bizarre that I am done with critiquing how our organization can promote a particular fundraising platform on social media. As proud as I am of my participation in our Justice First! and intern luncheon, it’s a little sad that I won’t be at our gala in New York in December that I’ve evaluated spaces for. But the good news is that even though my internship with Alliance for Justice is over, I can continuing developing my skills in development at other organizations. I want to continue learning more about grant writing and foundations and their relationship with nonprofits. Fortunately, one of my supervisors pointed me into the direction of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Their resource center can be found here: http://www.afpnet.org/ResourceCenter/?navItemNumber=502. I intend on using this organization to improve my skills and understanding of fundraising as a profession. My internship at Alliance for Justice has really inspired me to search for more development internships this year so I can continue building my development resume.
After working in development for three months, the advice that I would give to someone who was interested in this field is to take advantage of the fact that you live and work at a non-profit. Brandeis University is a non-profit organization and thus has lots of opportunities for people interested in fundraising. All of my friends who have worked at Phonathon have had a wonderful experience and a better understanding of what individual fundraising entails. I am really excited to examine how Brandeis uses development in its mission in my final year here. As for advice specific to this internship, I would highly recommend getting to know the people in the office. I guess this probably applies to any internship, but you never know what kind of journey someone has had to their current position until you talk to them and those conversations can be so informative and helpful. Just taking someone out to coffee can provide more reassurance and resources than a hundred Google searches.
I think that when most people think about social justice and the courts, they tend to think of public defenders, or victim’s rights advocates, or other people who are using the law to directly empower people, usually in criminal law. My summer at AFJ has taught me that in addition to those issues, we must focus on making sure the very institution of the courts are fair at all. This focus on systematic change has altered my opinion on how to approach social justice writ large and the importance of legal institutions. I am really excited to continue my work at AFJ by promoting their upcoming documentary on forced arbitration. People don’t generally consider what they are signing themselves up for when they click yes on a terms and conditions agreement, but chances are they are agreeing to a mandatory arbitration agreement. These clauses deny people access to the civil court system when they are wronged and create horrible externalities for consumers and employees. If you want to learn more about mandatory arbitration clauses, you should check out AFJ’s work on them: http://www.afj.org/our-work/issues/eliminating-forced-arbitration. I’m intending on bringing a film screening of the documentary to campus, so you should also definitely come to that if you’re as outraged as I am that these things exist.
Just in closing, I want to give a shout out to Hiatt’s World of Work program for giving us this amazing opportunity. Taking on an unpaid internship for the summer is such a privilege and that fact that Brandeis facilitates this demonstrates how committed it is to its students.
An office is a very artificial environment. It is a space that one shares with people that you may or may not have things in common with for nine hours a day, seven days a week, fifty weeks a year. That is an incredible amount of time. I have had the privilege to spend those hours at Alliance for Justice with people who truly care about social justice issues and whom I have been so fortunate to get to know. In the beginning of the summer, I made a goal to learn how to network. While I may not have formally asked someone to be my mentor yet, I have learned a lot about my colleagues and their career paths and I’m really happy with that development.
This entire summer has been one of growing but professionally, I think the thing I am most proud of so far is the improvement in my writing abilities. When I was looking for internships for the summer, I would often be asked for a writing sample. Because most of my writing is academic in nature I would end up sending in papers about really obscure topics. Now, part of my job is to proofread my supervisor’s work and I have even been permitted to contribute to some grant reports we have given. I have a better understanding of grant writing and really what it means to have professional writing experience. This will certainly allow me to transition to looking for a full time job in the spring.
One of my other big goals was to learn how to take criticism better and then to apply it effectively. I have found my supervisor’s strategy of giving me comments on my assignments instead of having very formal evaluations to be very effective. My writing and research has improved and I have gradually been entrusted with more responsibility. A few weeks ago I was even able to produce my own writing for a report to a foundation. I was able to staff one of the biggest events we did this summer, our Justice First Luncheon at the National Press Club. The luncheon was a fantastic learning experience because I was able to see how a large scale event is planned. As I did the minutia of confirmation calls, stuffing name tags, and depositing checks I was able to develop my organizational and scheduling skills. I will gladly bring these back to campus in the fall while I am planning the Brandeis Debate Team’s tournament.
Throughout the process of the luncheon, I was able to further my academic goal of figuring out how nonprofits apply the theory of social justice to practice. For example, we specifically sought out union made goods and vendors that had a good reputation for workers rights. On a more macro level of examining social justice, I’ve been impressed with how many women are in leadership positions at AFJ. As a Women’s and Gender Studies minor, I learn about how women are constantly underrepresented in business, government, science, etc. This is clearly a social justice problem because if those voices aren’t heard then that is a whole half of the population that is not getting a say in the political process. Even though we have a long way to go before women are truly free from prejudice and discrimination, it gives me a lot of hope in to see such an important organization with women at the helm. If you want to see more ways that AFJ tries to advance the cause of women’s rights, you should check out our documentary about how many states are currently trying to loosen protections on a woman’s right to choose. It is called Roe at Risk.
I am having a truly amazing experience here at AFJ, and we are actually looking for a fall development intern. If you want to find out more information, check out our idealist listing.
This summer, I have the incredible opportunity to work at a non-profit called Alliance for Justice (also known as AFJ) as a Development intern. I am working in their office in D.C., but they have a satellite office in Oakland, California and they do work all across the country. Alliance for Justice is an association of over 100 organizations including organizations as diverse as the Children’s Defense Fund, Legal Aid Society, and the Sierra Club, that are dedicated to ensuring that all Americans have the right to have their voice heard in the governmental process and to secure justice in the judicial system. AFJ accomplishes this in two ways. First, through its Justice program, it directs its own advocacy resources to fight for a fair and independent judiciary that respects the rights of citizens and second, through its Bolder Advocacy Initiative, it helps other nonprofits engage in advocacy to affect change. Alliance for Justice also produces a film ever year that deals with controversies or injustices within the legal system. If you want to learn more about AFJ, they have a really great website here: http://www.afj.org/. If you think you or your organization are seeking ways to increase the impact of your advocacy, bolderadvocacy.org, has some very informative tools as well as simple explanations of the laws governing non-profit advocacy.
I found this position while scrolling through B.hired, wondering if there was any possible way I could combine my passion for justice with a desire to explore the non-profit setting. It was lucky that Brandeis has such great online resources for cover letters, interviews, and searching for internships because job hunting as a study abroad student, an ocean away from your ideal market, can be intimidating. After my initial cover letter submission, I had a Skype interview for the first time, which was interesting. AFJ thought my fundraising experience on the Brandeis Debate Team would be a good match for development. A few days after my Skype interview, Chloe Hwang, AFJ’s Development Associate and my current supervisor, sent me an e-mail offering the job. I was so excited to work for an organization with such an interesting purpose.
As a Development intern, my duties include researching current and prospective donors and foundations, drafting briefings for meetings with donors and foundations, and providing support for the Development staff in the form of administrative and research tasks. This past week I have been researching foundations in Los Angeles to determine where AFJ might consider applying for grants. We also have our annual Justice First! Luncheon next Tuesday so the entire Development team is finishing up preparations for the event. It is a very busy time for Development. I feel like I have already been involved as part of the Development team which is so rewarding to experience as an intern. I have a few different learning goals this summer. Additionally, I look forward to examining how the implementation of social justice works in practice. So much of my time at school is spent thinking about the theories behind social justice that it can become too abstract. On a more professional level, I intend to learn more about networking and how to form mentor-ships this summer. As a rising senior, I am beginning to think about applying for jobs next year and many people say that networking is vital to that endeavor. I am really excited to further contribute to Development by sharpening my research skills and learning more about how a Development office functions within a non-profit.