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