I learned two things about myself throughout my internship at United for a Fair Economy (UFE). One is that I would prefer to work at a nonprofit as a part-time job, and the other is that community organizing involves a lot of new client introductions and unpaid work. Overall, I learned the importance of organizing and networking in your community, especially maintaining and growing networks. These lessons are vital for understanding how grassroots organizations collaborate and help each other.
I am now brainstorming what skills and prior knowledge I wish to have to create a significant, powerful impact on my community and bring that talent back home. I learned much about project management, team building, fundraising, and healthy relationships during my internship. I was able to help the office accountant with receiving, cataloging, and cashing in donations. More importantly, I was involved in the correspondence process, thanking individuals, creating letterheads, and mailing them. One memorable quote from a colleague about this process was, “the best way to obtain new donors is to re-engage with old ones.” I also helped my manager by fine-tuning and editing prompts for the Conversation Deck project and arranging a focus group with a diverse group of outside partners. Last but not least, I helped promote and market UFE fundraising and informational events.
I will say that although popular education was a new concept to me, it was amazing to see it in practice. I learned a lot about this type of work. I also realized that the more I did focus groups, the more I learned about the last one and better ways of facilitation.
Someone I wish I had met when I started is a staff member called Eroc. His work is concentrated around Healing Justice and community resource pooling. I wished I had met him earlier and worked with him more often, mainly since he was remote. He was the type of person you would speak to and feel like you got something out of the discussion.
One piece of advice I would give to someone pursuing an internship or career in this field is to take advantage of the learning opportunity and be careful of burnout. Burnout is the reason why I would pursue nonprofit work as a part-time job. I would also recommend that people do their research into organizations, ex-employees, and the work and impact an organization has done because we must be careful of the nonprofit industrial complex. A high concentration of nonprofits in an area signals a structural problem in how society operates. Moreover, being a 501(c)(3) means that the organization does its taxes in a particular way. This means you could end up in a nonprofit organization that mimics and operates the way a corporation would. Therefore, good things to look for in a nonprofit are whether they acknowledge mental health struggles and burnout, and if they work on projects collectively and cooperate with tasks and roles.
Overall, I am leaving this internship very fulfilled and appreciative.