Abbey Witham

Intern name: Abbey Witham

Major(s)/Minor(s): History and English double major

Title/place of internship/fellowship, etc.: Development Team Lead at Find Your Power

How did you find out about your internship/fellowship/etc.? I was looking through a list of internships available at nonprofits on Handshake. There were several opportunities listed at Find Your Power, and I found more information on their website. Because the organization was so small, I emailed the CEO directly to find more information and set up an interview time.

What were your responsibilities at your internship/fellowship/etc.? My official job title was Copywriting and Development Intern, but I later got promoted to Development Team Lead. With all of these titles came a number of responsibilities, and I learned about all aspects of how a nonprofit operates.

On the Development Team, I worked as the Individual Giving Intern. In that role, my day-to-day included tracking donations, sending out thank you’s, other donor outreach emails/letters, creating a solid plan for donor thank you’s in the future, and writing a how-to manual about the individual giving position for future interns. This aspect of my internship involved MANY spreadsheets and lots of organization, but I got amazing insight into fundraising and donor relations.

As a copywriter, I wrote social media posts for the fundraising campaign and was brought in as another set of eyes on several projects, including three annual reports, new website copy, and a written standards manual. As an English major, this part of my experience gave me insight into how important writing skills are in the workplace and how my writing, editing, and synthesis skills transfer into the “real world.”

As the Development Team Lead, I oversaw six other interns. Day-to-day included leading the writing of three annual reports, running weekly meetings, and supporting my team members to make sure they kept their projects moving forward. In an all-virtual internship, this aspect of my job was more difficult because I wasn’t actively around people and able to check-in with them. This new challenge, however, helped me think outside of the box and stretched how I thought about leadership.

What was the most beneficial aspect of your experience? For me the most beneficial aspect of this internship was the opportunity to do real work. As a small start-up, Find Your Power relies on volunteers and interns. Every day I worked on real projects that would reflect back on the nonprofit, from annual reports that spoke about their work, mission, and impact, to building donor relationships that will continue into the future, to running a fundraising campaign and writing copy that will be posted directly to the public. Knowing that I represented this organization and their mission pushed me to work extra hard and gave me a greater sense of purpose as I worked. I knew that I wasn’t the intern running to get coffee or file papers; I, like the rest of the interns, was a valuable and integral part of the team helping this organization succeed.

What was the most surprising thing you experienced or learned during your internship/fellowship/etc.? The most surprising thing about my experience this summer was the job that I had! I originally applied to be a storytelling and copywriting intern, working only on writing for social media and the website. When I was hired, however, there was a need for someone in development to run individual giving, organize the donations, and make a plan for thanking those donors. Coming into a position like that with ZERO experience in the nonprofit world or with fundraising/donor relations in general, I was nervous for how the summer would go or how much help I could offer. I spent the whole first week researching donor relations and fundraising best practices and asking questions about everything I needed help with. After a couple of weeks, I started to feel more comfortable in my position and confident with what I could accomplish for the summer. I surprised myself with how I adapted and learned in such a short period of time and ended up loving my job!

How can you apply what you experienced at your internship/fellowship/etc. in the future? This summer has given me so many tools that I can apply in the future. I proved to myself that I can adapt under pressure, learn a new position, and succeed in an area where I initially had so much doubt. I acquired new skills in database management and fundraising that can be applied to future work in the nonprofit sector should my career take me there. I refined my writing skills and gained experience writing succinct excerpts for social media and marketing. All of the experiences, obstacles, and growth moments I had through this internship allow me to approach any opportunity with new-found confidence knowing that I have it in me to learn what is necessary, work hard, and contribute in a real way.

What advice would you offer to future students interested in this experience? Don’t be afraid to take a position because of your lack of experience. Internships are a time to build skills and gain experience, not a time to be absolutely perfect. Organizations hire interns knowing that there will be obstacles and learning curves, but they are willing to work with you through them. If they weren’t, they would hire professional staff to do that work. Now is the time to take a risk and try something new, work in a field that you never have before. You will surprise yourself with how much you can learn without even realizing it. Not only is it great experience skill building-wise, but you will have the opportunity to explore different career options and may learn that you enjoy something you’ve never thought of before!

Find Your Power was an amazing organization to work for. They truly value their interns and volunteers and are some of the kindest, most fun people to work with. They will tailor your position to your strengths and take time to get to know you as a person and a worker, and you will have the opportunity to do real, impactful work.