United for a Fair Economy- Where has the time gone?

It’s hard to believe the summer is half over. I have learned so many valuable things so far at United for a Fair Economy (UFE). One of my goals this summer was to learn more about the behind-the-scenes at a small non-profit organization. Even in such a short time, I have gained an understanding of how UFE operates. I’ve learned what goes into a budget, how to frame a development plan, and what different types of communications are used.  I also attended a website building meeting to determine who visits our website, what they are looking for, and what content is essential for us.

My beautiful walk to work in downtown Boston

One particular skill I am building is my writing. UFE talks about being “donor centric,” which means writing from the viewpoint of the donor. In broader terms, I am working to understand other perspectives. I have been able to apply the writing skills I learned in school in a new and creative way. I have to think carefully about the wording of everything I write, improving my writing for both academic work and future jobs.

The work I am most proud of at this point is a three-email appeal I helped write that was sent to donors. They were designed to get donors excited about the direction UFE is headed, and to let them know what their money does and why it is important that they support our work.

More abstractly, I’ve learned that non-profit work is complicated. From the development perspective, the organization never really knows how much money will be given, or how successful what we are doing is. For example, UFE sends multiple appeals each year. Sometimes, more money is donated than others. It is hard to know what about the appeal worked- the writing, content, design, timing, or something else. However, this money is necessary to fund the many worthwhile projects UFE hopes to take on, so I’ve learned that you just keep going and do the best you can.

In addition, working in the real world has been different from academic life because it isn’t planned. In my classes, the professor has a plan of what he or she will teach and provides a syllabus. As a student, I know what I am going to learn and when I will be tested. On the other hand, in my internship, I find out what I am doing each day based on what is happening. The future is unknown to everyone; there are plans and objectives, but any number of things could change them. Furthermore, at school, I am only accountable to myself and my own success. I do as well as I can in classes for myself. At a non-profit, I am doing all this work for and with others as well. I am accountable to the organization and the people the organization is helping.

This internship is helping me build skills for school and the future. I’m learning to ask questions, help with as much as I can, stay organized and motivated, and develop relationships. I look forward to the second half of the summer.

My First Week at UFE, United for a Fair Economy

This summer, I am the development intern at United for a Fair Economy (UFE). UFE is based in Boston, MA. Its mission is to challenge the concentration of wealth and power in the United States. UFE works to close the wage gap, advocating for jobs with living wages, progressive taxes, and a government that works for the common good. In addition, much of UFE’s work promotes equal opportunity for people who have been marginalized in our society for reasons including race, class, gender, and national origin. Projects include popular economics trainings, collaboration with other organizations to support grassroots campaigns for tax fairness, and materials to bring attention to important issues. UFE’s website is in both English and Spanish, as is all of the materials it produces and the events it hosts. UFE maintains that democracy must embody these components of equality.

blog post 1 ufe

As the development intern, I assist with fundraising and donor communications. My responsibilities include research, donor appeals, and informational material preparation. By helping to raise money, I will contribute to UFE’s important mission. I found out about this internship through Brandeis University’s community service department. UFE partners with the Hiatt Career Center at Brandeis to hire one intern each summer as part of the social justice WOW program.

Overall, I enjoyed my first week at UFE. I learned a lot about what the organization and each branch does. I read previous intern’s projects and talked to the staff. I also began forming relationships with staff and board members. Everyone involved is very committed to their work and UFE’s mission as a whole. Their dedication is exciting and I look forward to working with and learning from all of them.  One of UFE’s most striking resources is, “11 Things the Wealthiest Americans Can Buy for the U.S.”.


Also this week, I completed my first project, an information and statistics sheet to be handed out at UFE’s board meeting. In doing this, I learned how to use the database in which UFE stores all information about donors and communications. I used the information in this database and Excel spreadsheets to assemble statistics on UFE’s individual giving and online giving over the past few years. I then researched data on philanthropy in the United States, and created a summary for the board.

In my time at UFE, I hope to gain professional, non-profit experience. I would like to learn more about what goes on behind the scenes at a non-profit organization, or small organization in general. This being my first internship, I would also like to gain experience with the skills required to be successful in the real world, like time management, organization, and communication skills. In addition, I hope to apply what I have learned in school, including an understanding of economics and writing skills. Also, I want to utilize other more abstract strengths I have honed in school, including hard work, dedication, and a desire to learn. Lastly, I hope to develop relationships with my coworkers at UFE. This internship is an opportunity to meet some amazing people and  I am excited to learn and grow this summer in this position.

– Rebecca Epstein ’18

Everyone Deserves a Share: United for a Fair Economy

HomeMy internship this summer is with United for a Fair Economy, which works to raise awareness about economic equality and to move people into action in their own states and communities to counter the policies that continually widen the wealth gap. The organization has projects through which it works towards its goals

Racial Wealth Divide: tackling the racially determined economic gap

Responsible Wealth: Encouraging the wealthy members of American society to fight for equality

Popular Economics Education: giving other organisations the tools to understand economic policy and implications

Tax Fairness Organizing Collaborative: advocating for fair and progressive tax policy

Estate and Federal Taxes:  tax fairness at the federal level

– One if the ways the UFE raises awareness about the inequality. (Source: UFE/Info-graphics)

A week before I started working with the group, I had the opportunity to witness firsthand the organization’s mission and the projects that it engages in at a film screening at Brattle Theatre in Harvard Square, Cambridge.

Inequality for All stars former secretary of labor, Robert Reich, as he and his trusted mini cooper work tirelessly to fight economic inequality in America. He explains inequality, how we perceive it and its realities. The film highlights one major point:

that the top 1% of the American population holds more than a third of the country’s wealth and that this share is growing.

 A combination of wit and simplified everyday language helped the group gathered in the auditorium on a warm Tuesday night to understand how increasing economic inequality can negatively affect their livelihood, their health, their rights and their freedom. Not all of us hold a bachelor’s degree in Economics (I can at least speak for the 9 year old in attendance who understood enough to join in the conversation afterwards).

My First Week

I am one of three development interns at UFE. Our role is to help with the fundraising side of the organization, a role that is instrumental in keeping the wheels of the UFE well-greased.

–          I attended a staff meeting the first day I arrived. The first few minutes were spent acknowledging each member’s hard work and achievements during the previous week. This was a sign that the UFE is an empowering and supportive work environment where everyone is recognized for their contribution.

–          I was given a chance to identify projects I would be individually interested in, something I appreciate as an opportunity to show my skills and learn new things. I expect to have this kind of freedom for the rest of the summer.

–          I met two other Brandeis students who are also interns at UFE for the first time, which is always a pleasant experience.

–          I started working on projects almost immediately. Everyday, I learned something new, both about the organization and fund-raising in general. My supervisors give me the background and motivations behind every project and how they affect donations and donor retention.

–          The people at UFE immediately struck me as passionate about their cause. They are a diverse group with different skills that are valuable to the group. It will be interesting observing and learning what those are.

In this environment where everything seems to be happening at once, I expect to make some great relationships, learn many new skills and have the chance to contribute to a great cause.

Thanks for reading,

Pokuaa Adu ’14

P.S. Please take a look at all the links highlighted all over this post to learn more about the UFE, the film and other interesting things I have seen in the past week.

Finishing up the Summer at UFE

It’s hard to believe that the summer is already over! The last half of my summer in Boston was smooth sailing as I got more accustomed to the rhythm of life at UFE. By the end, I felt that I had achieved a healthy balance of challenge and basic understanding of how to get things done. In terms of accomplishing my goals set at the beginning of the summer, I am happy with the results. I set some broad goals, but also quite a few very specific goals having to do with gaining confidence in fundraising and donor relations. The more I observed and worked with members of the Development team, the more I grew to see “practice making perfect”. UFE’s current development team is full of wisdom and years of experience and I was really appreciative of their willingness to share their knowledge, and even take a couple steps back to explain basic procedures that were unfamiliar to me. As the summer progressed, I definitely saw a huge improvement in myself- it became much easier to jump on an assigned task because I spent less time clarifying questions and had the confidence to make decisions that I deemed appropriate.

Another goal of mine was to improve research skills, and I had many opportunities to look into ways that UFE could save on administrative costs- because a goal of any non-profit is to have administrative costs that are as low as possible to keep the majority of money headed towards the mission of the organization. The first research project I did was in my very first month and involved a cost-benefit analysis of what each individual state charges to become a charitable solicitor in that respective state. Some of the costs were extremely high, whereas others charged nothing at all. Having this list enables UFE to take advantage of all of the states that are free, and then look into which states are worth paying the “charitable solicitor fee”. This project required extensive research because there was no one easy place to get all of the information. It was certainly a good place to start though because it introduced me to a lot of issues that I would come to run into later on in the summer. As I did other projects throughout the summer, I had an easier time troubleshooting, making my skills much more efficient by the end of my time at UFE. There are even little tips that I came across which should be of use during the school year- especially within Microsoft Excel. Even though I have used Excel many times in the past, I learned many tricks this summer which will greatly increase speed and efficiency with any sort of data that I am trying to keep track of.

I am also quite happy with the strong connections that I made at UFE. Everyone was so approachable and eager to be of help not just throughout the summer, but even in offering to connect with Brandeis again in the future. Outside of the development office are many programs including popular education- and if I ever find myself in a class related to issues that UFE addresses (which I am sure I will here!) they have offered to come and speak to classes/groups here on campus. They have been a wonderful resource and I wouldn’t hesitate to call them in order to connect again in the future.

Having now completed the internship, I would like to check out other development offices- including Brandeis. With the experience at UFE, I think it would be interesting to compare and see the differences between how a college runs its fundraising mission with how a small non-profit sustains itself. To any student interested in an internship with this organization, I would suggest keeping a positive attitude and showing interest by asking questions. Everyone is more than happy to help, and as long as they can see you’re dedication and care for the organization, they will be glad to help you improve your own skills.

Overall, I have really seen how it is all about the passion. When people can tell that you care about what you are trying to raise money for, it makes others care as well. It puts meaning and emotion behind the difficult task of asking for money, because especially at UFE (though I am sure most other places as well), you can see that fundraisers are in the field because they truly care about the mission and want to see positive social change. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to work with such a close-knit staff because it was helpful in getting a full grasp on the underlying issues of economic inequalities with plague our current system. I am happy to say that I share their vision of, “shaping society into one where prosperity is better shared, where there is genuine equality of opportunity, where the power of concentrated money and corporations neither dominates the economy nor dictates the content of mass culture”. It is an issue that has potential to be fixed once their is a greater overall understanding of the basic roots of the problem. This comes from education and discussions among family and friends because with greater understanding, comes more persistence and desire and to remedy the situation. I have included a couple info graphics that I think do a nice job of summing of the uneven distribution of wealth in picture format- I way that I personally find very helpful in understanding some of these more confusing topics:






















So, while I have walked away from this summer internship with a wealth of knowledge related to fundraising and development, I have also broadened my own personal knowledge from progressive taxes, to facts regarding the 99% vs 1%. It was a pleasure working with such a dedicated staff and I will walk away with so many life lessons beyond anything that can be taught in a classroom. Here’s to a great summer of 2012!

– Gwen Teutsch ’13

United for a Fair Economy: Week One

I arrived at United for a Fair Economy (UFE) safely, but in the midst of pure chaos — I walked into a scene of power tools disassembling furniture, boxes piled high, and various items with bright signs saying, “KEEP!” or “TOSS!” As some of us with housing leases know, June 1st is the big moving day, and this also held true for UFE as they upgraded to a bigger space, a few blocks over on Milk Street in Boston. However chaotic it may have been, there was still this wonderful energy amongst my new co-workers. Everyone was enjoying themselves as they labored through all the burdens associated with moving. Already reflecting on that first day, I can tell that UFE will be a positive environment in which to be working this summer. 
UFE is a national organization whose mission is to “raise awareness that concentrated wealth and power undermine the economy, corrupt democracy, deepen the racial divide, and tear communities apart.” There are five core programs under the umbrella of UFE: Popular Education for Action, Estate & Federal Taxes, Responsible Wealth, Tax Fairness Organizing Collaborative, and the Racial Wealth Divide. Each branch has a goal to make connections with outside resources, then ultimately collaborate with them in order to strengthen the broader movement. Their 2011 annual report nicely summarizes the successes of the past year and goals for the future.

I have been hired as an intern of the Development Team which is heavily focused on organizing fundraising projects and donor communications. As a non-profit organization, UFE relies on grants and donations in order to sustain itself, so much of my work will be focused in researching new, potential funding sources, working on grant writing, communicating with long term donors, and helping to organize fundraisers such as Call-A-Thons and House Parties.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to sit in on a meeting with the UFE Board of Directors. Each year there are four meetings between the staff and Board. It was a really interactive meeting that involved many activities such as, getting into groups and writing our own “elevator speeches,” so that if we find ourselves stuck in an elevator, we can successfully encourage someone to make a donation or even join the UFE movement. What I enjoyed most about the day was listening to the directors talk about their experiences with UFE and how they became involved. Membership to the board is unpaid and volunteer-based, which proved just how much these directors care about the cause. I came out of that meeting feeling so empowered really only because they were so excited about their work.

Recently, the director of Development lent me a fantastic book called, The Self Made Myth. It is written by Brian Miller, the executive director of UFE, and Mike Lapham, a project director and cofounder of UFE. So far I am just about halfway through it, but from the dialogue on the very first page, I became hooked. In overview thus far, it is about debunking the “self made myth” that progressive taxes are a form of “punishing success.” Many of the wealthy in the U.S. like to believe that success was earned solely on an individual level — without the help of anyone along the way. However in Chuck Collins’ foreword, he says, “No individual is and island. No one starts a business or creates wealth in a social vacuum. There are things we do together — through our tax dollars and public expenditures — that create fertile ground for wealth creation” (xii). Miller and Lapham’s book is centered upon this myth and presents stories of prosperous business leaders like Warren Buffet and Ben & Jerry’s who recognize that without various public investments and support, they never would have made it to where they are today; for this reason, they support higher taxes for themselves (the wealthy) because it is a way of giving back after all the help they received along the way.

On the UFE webpage, there is an interesting article titled “Eight Reasons You Should Agree with Will Smith on Taxes”. I highly recommend checking it out!

It was really by luck that I came across this internship opportunity. I was totally unsure of what I wanted to do this summer, but back in February I happened to read through the weekly community service e-mail and saw the blurb about UFE looking for a summer intern. It is very unlike anything I have ever done in the past, but that is why I was so drawn in. For years since hearing about the economic crisis in the U.S., I have not once tried to understand the root of the problem. Already working with this staff, their enthusiasm and passion has been contagious. I look forward to learning more and gaining the tools needed so that I can continue the chain of educating others the same way the the staff at UFE has begun educating me.

– Gwen Teutsch ’14