Top 5 Reasons to Intern in Advancement

Phil Mendez is  a senior at Florida State University who interned through the CASE Advancement Internship Program at Dartmouth College.

Last spring I learned that I had been accepted into CASE’s Advancement Internship Program and would be one of 46 interns to participate in its inaugural year. I was selected by Dartmouth College to intern in the advancement office for eight weeks during the summer. At Dartmouth, I had daily assignments, including writing briefs and donor profiles. I also undertook major projects, including conducting a benchmarking study of stewardship practices and building a tool kit to increase young alumni engagement.

Through my internship I met so many professionals who are passionate about higher education advancement and fellow interns who are inspired to learn about the profession.

There are so many reasons students should apply for the 2017 CASE Advancement Internship. Here are my top five.

1. Develop your professional side. Through my internship, I learned about the donor cycle and specific strategies tailored to each category like prospect research segmentation and moves management. I used to think fundraising was about writing grant proposals. Now I know it’s about building human connections. Storytellers, educators and salespeople do well in fundraising because they are well-versed in the art of forging connections. Successful fundraisers understand how prospects are linked and motivated and they know how to communicate information sincerely and persuasively.

CASE puts a lot of emphasis on professional preparation. CASE staff aim to help interns be successful, land a job and stand out. At CASE, I learned how to conduct myself with professionalism while remaining true to who I am. In our trainings, I spruced up my resume and learned how to properly put a pin in a suit jacket and iron my shirts. Now, during my final undergraduate year, I will be working part-time in the development office of a top nonprofit. This internship sets you up for career success.

2. Explore new places. I’m from Florida, where pink flamingos, orange groves, theme parks and palm trees rule. On my first commute to my internship at Dartmouth, I marveled at the colonial-style New England cottages surrounded by elms and sycamore trees. This was far different from the squat, stucco houses of my flatland hometown in Tallahassee. During my internship, I’d regularly see hikers passing through town on the Appalachian Trail, studying their maps and eating beef jerky.

Other interns shared this experience. Fellow intern Alison Archer told me she saw plenty of differences in lingo, culture and landscape between her West Coast home and Washington D.C. (where we met for intern training). Thad Brock, a student at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, interned at the University of Texas at Austin. The difference, he reported, was huge. This internship offers a great way to explore a new place, even if you stay in the same state.


Phil Mendez (left) snaps a selfie with Mike Foote, director of research & prospect management at Dartmouth College.

3. Forge friendships. With my coworkers at Dartmouth and intern peers at CASE, I’ve made some of the strongest human connections in my life. There is beauty in being goofy and laughing to tears with peers and colleagues who shares your career goals. We build each other up, inspire one another and provide feedback, access and help. I have had other internships that have an unwelcome, competitive environment. CASE offers a uniquely collaborative and community-oriented space. You will establish relationships that last a lifetime—friends that know how to work and play.

4. Learn more about yourself. I include among the many great benefits of this internship the opportunities I had outside of the office. These experiences advanced my personal learning and sense of purpose. I got my hands dirty working a pearl press at a book arts workshop. I got kicked out of the woodworking shop for not being a student. (It was worth a shot.) I got blisters climbing at a rock gym with a bunch of strangers. I swam in beautiful lakes. I picnicked by the Connecticut River. I danced at farmers’ markets in Lebanon and Hanover, New Hampshire, and Norwich, Vermont. I saw the masterworks of Saint-Gaudens overlooking Mount Ascutney. I indulged in two scoops of dark chocolate at the famous Melato Gelato. I ate a bucket of popcorn watching a movie at The Nugget, one of the oldest theaters in the U.S. I cried at commencement and reunions. I met with activists and leaders in the Upper Valley community to discuss the issues in the region. I now have a deeper understanding of my habits, preferences and passions.

5. Find surprises and uncover secrets. Along the way during your internship, you’ll have new experiences that you can’t even imagine. I, for instance, found myself in a situation in which I dumped artificial snow on the president of an Ivy league college while his wife read Shakespearean sonnets in front of a green screen with inflatable penguins. This internship is a place for larger-than-life opportunities with real experiential outcomes and deliverables. It is both expansive and particular. It is full of surprises and secrets waiting to be discovered by you.

The CASE Advancement Internship Program is now accepting intern applications. In addition, if your institution is interested in hosting an intern, contact Scott Harris.

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