For three days during spring break of my freshman year at Princeton University, I was lucky enough to do a Princeternship at the Princeton Education Foundation. The PEF is a nonprofit organization that tries to ensure excellence at the local public schools by functioning as a link between schools and the community – encouraging private philanthropy to support many great programs that students benefit from. Relying heavily on volunteer work, the PEF has only one paid employee, Executive Director Adrienne Rubin ’88, who I was “princeterning” with.
For the PEF, a big fundraising gala was coming up soon, so finalizing all plans for that took up a substantial amount of time. I got involved by updating files that kept track of items to be auctioned off at that gala, sorting through letters and sheets and getting a tad creative while writing descriptions for all the articles that were not in the data system yet. On my second day I had the opportunity to attend two meetings, including a “Women in Development” meeting which gave me new insights into the how and why of fundraising. On my last day, I spent some time researching existing programs similar to a new program the PEF is thinking about starting, so I collected data and came up with some suggestions on details of the program. All the while I not only felt like I was getting a much better idea of how the PEF functions, but was happy to also feel like the results of my work were in fact useful.
On the go, I learned a lot about how valuable personal relationships are in fundraising, or really in organizing any bigger event. If you need people to be committed to a project, spending time with them on a personal level is hugely important, and only after that personal connection is built can other requests successfully follow. In the end, the best relationships, in the workplace or really anywhere, are the ones that create a winning situation for both sides.
However, I learned so many more things than “just” about the work of the PEF or nonprofits in general. I would consider my opportunity to meet Adrienne Rubin herself and get to know her better as just as valuable an experience. Mrs. Rubin has an interesting story to tell: as she originally graduated from Princeton with a degree in music and an opera voice, her path from there to the PEF was incredibly fascinating to hear. Since we were working almost side by side in the office, I luckily had plenty of time then and at lunch times to ask questions, all of which were thoughtfully and honestly answered. For all of this, I owe Mrs. Rubin a big thank you.
After all, I not only got new insights into the PEF, but also took home many new ideas and thoughts about Princeton University, my time here, and how the Alumni network might influence my life after. Friday afternoon I left the office and found myself sad that the Princeternship had only been three days. It was an amazing experience I definitely would not have wanted to miss.