Interning at The Osborne Association has been an amazing experience. I can’t believe that I’m now halfway done. Everyone has opened their offices to me and helped me out so much in my short time here, which has enabled me to learn much more than I ever thought I would. Before I started my internship my goal was just to understand the financial structure of a sec. 501.C.3 organization, but I soon realized that a non-profit organization is much more than the donations and grants it needs in order to run.
After attending the Social Impact Exchange’s Symposium on Scaling Social Impact, I realized that the quality of an organization is measured by their overall impact. While listening to the speakers at the Symposium, one of the main ideas that stuck with me is that an organization must stay true to its mission and follow through on the internal commitments they have made instead of trying to adapt to grants that are available or to try to appease foundations and donors by becoming other than what they intended. It is very easy to get sidetracked by other demands, temptations and opportunities available. I’m lucky to be interning at an organization that maintains a strong inner compass and illustrates how to secure funding and create partnerships that stay true to its own mission.
By working in the Development Department in Osborne’s Bronx office, I have seen how Osborne has been able to maintain funding from the New York’s Department of Criminal Justice Services for successful programs such as the Green Career Center, which helps individuals who are formerly incarcerated receive the tools they to secure living wage jobs, and the Court Advocacy Services, which helps keep people from having to be incarcerated through appropriate and effective alternative rehabilitation and mental health programs. I also learned a lot about social impact bonds, which have allowed The Osborne Association to run vital programs on Riker’s Island in order to reduce recidivism by an estimated ten percent.
While working in Development has shown me the importance of finding the proper funding, my work in Osborne’s Brooklyn office has shown me the importance of developing the proper partnerships. I helped create the questionnaire and chose the different tele-visiting programs out of many across the nation that the National Institute of Corrections will interview in order to report on the use of tele-visiting for families and children to visit their incarcerated loved ones.
I have seen the incredible impact that The Osborne Association has had over its 80 year existence because of the programs it has been able to run so successfully. I personally answered letters and phone calls from people who requested help on issues ranging from keeping people from ever going prison to helping people who have been incarcerated for decades get their life together and change for the better. I continue to learn about new programs, even outside of the New York area, that I can refer people to who call and write to Osborne for help. I hope to keep growing and learning all that I can about how to make and sustain the powerful impact an organization like Osborne has.
One of the largest problems that has plagued the United States for decades is the extraordinarily high rate of incarceration. The Osborne Association, an 80-year old criminal justice non-profit located in New York State, works to address this issue with an abundance of innovative programming that effectively reduces America’s reliance on incarceration and aids those formerly incarcerated to be productive citizens and family members. Although I have worked with incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people since I was in elementary school, my internship at Osborne has exposed me to completely new ideas and approaches and has been very engaging. As a result of the discussions I had with my supervisors before my internship began, they have focused on ensuring that I would learn about how the organization is able to run smoothly and be so influential by working in Osborne’s Development and the Children and Youth Services departments.
Luckily for me, I was able to begin my internship with Osborne’s major fundraising event, which is called Lighting the Way. Lighting the Way displays Osborne’s incredible dedication and achievements with speeches and videos showing the power that people can have when they care about helping others and making their communities better places to live. In additional, about a week before Lighting the Way, I was surprised to find out that one of the members of The Osborne Association’s Board of Directors is related to a strong supporter of the WOW grants. This added to my feeling of connectedness to Osborne and their mission. Lighting the Way became the foundation of my internship because it showed the immeasurable impact that The Osborne Association’s innovative programs and crucial services have on New York and even across the United States.
For my internship I work in Osborne’s Bronx office on Mondays and Tuesdays and in their Brooklyn office on Wednesdays and Thursdays. In the Bronx office I have been focusing on development and fundraising. I am working closely with the Communications Director and the grants writing staff to better the website, attend critical meetings, and catalog the wide ranging publications that are vital for expanding various programs and services. So far, I have examined socialimpactexchange.org because The Osborne Association is one of the S&I 100. I participated in a phone meeting about Sesame Street’s new initiative highlighting the issue of parental incarceration to discuss the initiative (http://sesamestreet.org/incarceration) and Liz Gaynes, Osborne’s Executive Director, being selected as one of only eleven White House Champions of Change for Children of Incarcerted Parents (http://www.whitehouse.gov/champions), and I went through the majority of the publications that have been in circulation for the past two years. I have been really lucky in my timing because these are all major developments that impact incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals and their families and children across the nation.
In the Brooklyn office I have been focusing on training to answer Osborne’s Family Resource Center hotline and answer mail from incarcerated people across New York state. I also conduct research for a training manual that Osborne has been contracted to prepare by the National Institute of Corrections for “televisiting”, a program that is sweeping the nation. The phone calls and mail have made me very sympathetic to the pain that families, especially children, go through because of the stigma and shame that is associated with incarcerated family members. This has pushed me to do what I can in order to ensure that the growth of televisiting will not be used to replace in person visits to jails and prisons but rather as a helpful supplement to keep those incarcerated connected to their loved ones. People are not aware of the devastating trend in jails across the America to get rid of visitation and only allow virtual visits, which will only lead to more issues for families impacted by incarceration and especially for their children. There are over 2.1 million people behind bars in the United States and 1 in every 28 children has a parent behind bars. This number is much higher for African American and Latino children. It is necessary to provide these children and their families with the tools they need to lead healthy and productive lives, including access to their parents who they love.