Interning with a Non-Profit

By:  Sarah Ombry

Many time students are hesitant to take an unpaid internship, but when I had the opportunity to intern with the Grand Rapids Symphony, I  jumped at it. I’m extremely passionate about the arts, so being able to work with the organization was something I was very excited about. My official role was the Events and Community Engagement intern, where I honed my PR, advertising, and event planning skills. We worked with everyone from high-up donors to one-time ticket buyers.

Getting butts in seats is the goal in arts PR, and it’s crucial that interns learn all they can in an industry with resources that are limited and dependent on others.

Utilize all resources avaScreen Shot 2015-04-07 at 2.45.09 PMilable. Because non-profits are primarily funded by donations, using resources to their fullest extent is critical. Donor relations is a HUGE part of the job and maintaining those connections was extremely important. Arts is different from other organizations, where most of the profit is from transactions. People are looking for an experience. It’s your job to do that so well that they want to come again. Don’t be afraid to ask for something if you think it will improve audience experiences.

Make industry connections and continue volunteering. The arts industry can seem pretty small at times; it seems like everyone knows everyone. Maintaining those especially important if you are a sophomore or junior. Building up that relationship with the organization could lead to a possible job – or a connection to a job in the future. If you can, incorporate the company into a writing assignment for class and then send it to them. Explain the project and ask for edits and opinions. This also gives you an opportunity to reach out to them, other than a “just checking in” email. Showing that you still think about their organization shows support and dedication.

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Interning with a non-profit can be intimidating, especially in the arts but the experience is worth it. The arts are one of the areas that need the most help and if you’re passionate about it, it can be a so rewarding. Don’t miss an opportunity to have a blast and get great experience!


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