How do internships benefit students at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, as well as local nonprofit organizations? Dr. Tyrone Freeman, director of undergraduate programs and assistant professor of philanthropic studies, explains:
“Internships are a vital part of the undergraduate learning experience. They provide students with pre-professional opportunities in the workplace that expose them to careers and organizations of interest.
“Internships test students’ abilities, build their networks, and let them try out various professional roles and workplace cultures before they make their own career decisions.”
Students have gone as far away as India, or stayed as close as Indianapolis to complete these internships. One student decided to take her passion for fundraising and youth mentorship to fulfill her requirement. Junior Claire Ralston is originally from Indianapolis.
The Vice President for Internal Relations for Jagathon and Information Specialist at the Office of Undergraduate Admissions heard about Shepherd Community Center in the city through her church growing up.
“I wanted to have my internship at a nonprofit focused on grassroots and community work that also had an established development team,” Ralston says. “I volunteered as a youth with Shepherd, and their focus on community really stood out to me.”
The organization does not normally have interns in its development department, but Ralston personally reached out to Steve DeBuhr, chief development officer at Shepherd Community Center, in order to discuss crafting an internship where Ralston could not only gain firsthand experience, but one that would help the Center as well.
They did so, and Ralston spent her summer refining Shepherd’s stewardship process.
“Shepherd has an established thank-you process, but they hadn’t someone who had the time to focus on creating a stewardship process,” Ralston says. “Steve thought that was a perfect project for me to focus on, so we worked together to create a stewardship program that encourages recurring donations. That program includes segmenting donations into different giving categories, and then tailoring subsequent actions after that.
“That was my main project, but I also helped with events and managing volunteers as well. It was a very well-rounded experience.”
Taking the Introduction to Philanthropic Fundraising class taught by Bill Stanczykiewicz, assistant dean of external relations, clinical associate professor, and director of The Fund Raising School, gave Ralston a solid basis to build Shepherd Community Center’s stewardship plan.
“We had just talked about stewardship in class before I started my internship, including how many times is appropriate to interact with a donor,” she says. “We also learned how to write a good fundraising letter, engagement email, and other fundraising tools.
“I learned a great deal about the difference between a simple thank you process and a stewardship process in that class, which really helped me when I worked at Shepherd.”
Internships also give nonprofits the ability to engage with and learn from students with knowledge of the sector. DeBuhr noted the impact Ralston had on the development program.
“Claire is wise beyond her years. She was able to implement what she’s learned at the school and combine it with an attention to detail and a desire to pursue excellence. Her work has become our SOP for our newly formulated stewardship program, and any on-going benefit to Shepherd attained by thanking or connecting to our donors will in no small means be attributed to her work,” he said.
For Ralston, her experiences at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy have provided a way for her to serve her community: “I’ve earned a well-rounded education at the school, which has helped set me up to be successful in the future. In addition, my internship gave me tangible skills that I can transfer to a future career.
“If you want to help people, this is a great field to go into and a great place to earn an education.”
Learn more about internships and our undergraduate degree
Interested in learning about how you can host an internship? Contact Pamela Clark at firstname.lastname@example.org.