It’s hard to believe that my time at AJWS has already come to a close. I am sad to be leaving such an incredible organization with inspiring and dedicated people, but I am excited about the insights I have gained this summer. I feel that I have come closer to meeting my learning goals than I ever could have imagined. In part, this is because working at the organization was a very well rounded learning experience. What I am taking away from this summer at AJWS is more than just the ability to complete tasks, or improved research and database skills. I learned something extremely valuable about the culture of an effective organization.
At the beginning of the summer, my main goal was to learn about the operations of a nonprofit; the diverse roles played by individuals and teams and the strategy behind methods of social change. While no individual task or accomplishment could teach me this, I was lucky to have the opportunity to work with two different teams: Donor Engagement and Major Gifts.. This gave me insight into what the two divisions needed on a basic level to do their work. My research provided background information on where to host events, who to contact, which organizations to potentially partner with, and what kinds of events other organizations are hosting. In completing these assignments, I learned about the strategy behind event planning and fundraising, as well as the kinds of information needed to make these decisions.
Another one of my learning goals was to be able to talk about AJWS’s work in a persuasive way. My work in Development and Alumni Relations at Brandeis (through Phonathon) has provided me with the opportunity to discuss my college experience with diverse alumni, and to hear their stories as well. Part of what excited me about working in development at AJWS was that I could learn the vocabulary to discuss the organization’s work in a similarly persuasive way. A few of my tasks and accomplishments helped me to do this. First, I read through countless publications to organize issue packets for donors. This familiarized me with the language used to talk about different issues and the work being done in various countries. I also worked to draft a publication on disaster relief, which allowed to employ some of the language I’d learned, using the style guide and AJWS branding to guide my writing. I also wrote blurbs about the Study Tour program for the AJWS website, which provided me a similar opportunity. All of these experiences gave me the tools to sound credible and educated about AJWS’s mission and work, which culminated in the opportunity to make thank you calls to donors! This was nerve wracking and exciting, and I felt confident that I met my goal.
I am excited to build on this experience back at Brandeis. My work at Phonathon is a different kind of development, but listening to people at AJWS talk about their relationships with donors, fundraising strategies and experiences will stay with me and lead a better understanding and purpose in my work. Additionally, this new outlook will stay with me in my job search this coming year. I know that I will definitely be in touch with AJWS in some capacity- I have truly fallen in love with their mission and work, and would be honored to volunteer, travel, or work for them again in my future. The advice I would give to a student interested in interning at AJWS is to take advantage of the connections available to them. It is so important to make the most of every day working there. The staff is well educated, diverse, and passionate about any number of different things, and they are so willing to impart wisdom onto young people. I am truly thankful for the meetings I’ve had with people I didn’t even work with, because it provided me with important perspective on career choices, educational choices, and even life choices. Another piece of advice that certainly goes for AJWS, but is also relevant for other nonprofits is to try to go above and beyond. It might be hard as an intern, but I found that it was stimulating and exciting for me to do more than was asked of me. It was not necessary for me to draft a publication this summer, but I really wanted to try it out. Whenever I felt that my work was going slowly or dragging on, I asked for more. These are easy ways to get the most out of your time at an organization and really enjoy the experience.
As I mentioned in my mid-way blog post, my work in Development at AJWS has ignited my interest in communications. My next step is to look into the ways that social justice and nonprofit work intertwine with the communications field. I understand development as a certain type of communication, with a very specific purpose. I am excited about the prospect of learning about new kinds of communication that can raise awareness about important issues, raise money, and frame discussions to be productive. In my job search, I will certainly be looking into firms and organizations for positions that combine these interests. My summer in development has provided me a window into what it means to communicate effectively, and I’d love to develop that even further.
Above all, my time at AJWS has educated me even more about why my ideals of social justice hold true. I deeply believe in equality, human rights, and a moral obligation to help those less fortunate. AJWS voices these concerns with a grounding in Jewish texts, but also with common sense. The culture of the organization has reinforced my idea of making change from the ground up, respecting communities and the knowledge they have about their circumstances, and using that as a catalyst for change. Because of my experiences at AJWS, I am a better listener, a more efficient worker, a more dedicated citizen, and most importantly, a more passionate and inspired change agent. If nothing else, that will stay with me.