Edgar Wang ’16, Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation

Edgar-WangI was fortunate enough to find a Princeternship through Career Services in the nonprofit sector with the Ann Arbor Community Foundation. I was specifically interested in the Ann Arbor Community Foundation to better understand the grant allocation process and its role within the community. I wasn’t disappointed as the experience was loaded with new information; I learned far more about the intricacies, nuances, and functioning of a nonprofit community foundation than I had expected.

The day started with our host, Stephanie Freeth ’97, explaining the different types of endowment and differentiating between categories such as unrestricted and donor advised. Stephanie earned an MBA from Kellogg and had a wide variety of experiences, ranging from startups to her current nonprofit role, and her expertise shined in the explanations she gave us. She utilized a diagram to demonstrate the process of fundraising from identifying the donors to cultivating the relationship and then transitioned into using a pyramid as a visual aid to show the relationships between the various types of giving.

We then had the opportunity to speak with Jillian, who talked about her role in dealing with donors and fundraising. Before lunch, we sat in on a quick meeting with Stephanie and Cheryl the CEO of the foundation, and she shared a bit about the Youth Foundation, a group of youths that managed their own separate funds, and how it could really affect the lives of those who worked through it.

Lunch was a welcome break from the fast-paced morning; we ate at Zingerman’s, a local restaurant that made a killer pork pot pie. We talked with Stephanie about Princeton and had a nice conversation about whatever topics surfaced.
In the afternoon, we had the opportunity to go over the online and social media presence with Sue and Cheryl. The foundation was debating over whether to expand its media presence in order to increase its visibility (which would require more resources) or instead to focus its efforts on individual donors who gave more (and tended to make more of an impact than a multitude of smaller donors). We went over the website, social media, and info pamphlets and had the opportunity to throw in our input, ranging from whether we liked a pamphlet’s color scheme to how best to capture a website viewer’s attention.

At the day’s end, Neel, the COO, shared a talk about how you should really pursue something you enjoy and question why you’re doing something. For if you seek out what society has conditioned you to, if you go down the path that you think you should go down without ever wondering why, you aren’t going to find what you truly enjoy doing. It was a thoughtful comment to top off the day’s thoughts. The Princeternship was a wonderful experience, and I’m extremely grateful to Princeton, Career Services, and especially Stephanie for taking the time to accommodate us and share her knowledge.

Audrey Berdahl-Baldwin ’16, American Red Cross

Audrey-Berdahl-BaldwinOn the morning of January 9, 2013, I enjoyed a lovely walk in our nation’s capital over to the American Red Cross Headquarters and began a wonderful day with my Princeternship host, Ms. Carrie Santos ’88, who is the Senior Director of International Policy and External Affairs at the American Red Cross. Ms. Santos warmly welcomed me, taking me out for coffee and sitting down with me to tell me more about her incredible work. Ms. Santos had arranged an exciting day for me, which gave me a glimpse of the many facets of her job and of her abilities; the day also provided the opportunity to meet with many of her coworkers, helping to highlight a number of different aspects of the critical and substantive work being done by the International Services Division of the American Red Cross.

One of the staff members I had the opportunity to speak with was the Director of International Policy and Relations. He outlined his responsibilities and objectives, discussing the myriad of dynamics that he considers as he works to support the American Red Cross as part of the global Red Cross/Red Crescent network. Our engaging conversation illuminated both the challenges and opportunities that engage the Red Cross’ humanitarian mission.

My next meeting was with a Senior Associate of International Humanitarian Law Dissemination. The American Red Cross educates people across the United States on humanitarian principles and laws and communicates with other Red Cross/Red Crescent sites around the world about how they are fulfilling this mission. This program’s work sparked my interest in how this initiative can help foster a peaceful country – and world – through entering classrooms, colleges, and other settings and communicating humanizing values that respect the dignity of all human beings.

Baldwin 1I proceeded to a meeting in Ms. Santos’ office, involving directors of different programs under the umbrella of international policy and external affairs. I enjoyed the opportunity to see an example of how Ms. Santos’ work was manifested on a day-to-day basis. Ms. Santos provided clear leadership that valued and benefitted from the talents of her colleagues, leading to an inspiring and tangible experience of many gifted people working together for a common objective in the service of our shared humanity.

Afterward, I had the chance to meet with the Director of the Reconnecting Family Links program. A shining testament to the Red Cross’ humanitarian mission, this beautiful program helps to reunite families after a disaster or conflict. Utilizing the global Red Cross/Red Crescent network, the Red Cross is able to send messages and find family members who may have been separated recently or as far back as World War II. I was moved hearing some of examples of this program’s work and learning of the Red Cross’ persistence and dedication in helping to reconnect families.

In the afternoon, some staff members greeted me, and we headed down to the cafeteria for lunch. I appreciated everyone’s kindness, sincerity, and advice and liked learning more about their work at the American Red Cross.

After lunch, I had a phone conference with a Senior Associate of Communications and Marketing who focuses on areas in Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, in addition to International Humanitarian Law issues. She provided an overview of the American Red Cross’ impressive communications and marketing division, offering a unique perspective on circulating information and facilitating social engagement through a variety of mediums. I was also interested in how the American Red Cross monitors news and social media to track where their help may be needed.

When the phone conference was over, Ms. Santos introduced me to the Senior Officer of Event Management in the International Services Division. As they took me on a tour of other nearby, beautiful, and historic Red Cross buildings, I became aware of some of the responsibilities involved in event management. I was amazed to discover some of the topics that must be considered when planning an event, especially at an international setting. Another highlight of the tour was the chance to learn more about the Red Cross’ history.

When we returned to the headquarters, I met with a memberBaldwin 3 from the Fields Operations Office in the International Response Operations Center. He was one of the first responders to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. It was amazing to learn about the impressive levels of thoughtful organization that go into the American Red Cross’ important work on an international stage. We also received a tour of the center responsible for operations related to domestic disasters.

I headed back to Ms. Santos’ office, where she was having a meeting with a consultant for the American Red Cross. The diverse and full workload of Ms. Santos revealed the integral connection between the strengths of the Red Cross and its ability to be successful in its work. Having just taken a course on philanthropy, it was particularly exciting to witness the incredible organization of such a powerful, important, well-known, and established nonprofit and to see its people actively investing in keeping the Red Cross vibrant.

I concluded my Princeternship by talking with Ms. Santos about my impressions from the day. I was amazed by the goodness and sense of camaraderie that united the people I met as they worked to fulfill the Red Cross’ beautiful mission. I was deeply moved by all of the staff’s dedication to the Red Cross’ core principles of “humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity, and universality.” My day at the American Red Cross filled me with hope for our shared future and a strong sense of patriotism. Ms. Santos was tremendously generous, helping me throughout the day, introducing me to her spectacular staff, answering my questions, inspiring me with the example of her impressive career path, offering advice, and hosting me for this outstanding Princeternship. The opportunity to spend the day with Ms. Santos at the American Red Cross was truly an honor and a gift. I wish to thank Career Services, the staff at the American Red Cross, and especially Ms. Santos for an extraordinary day!


Andrew Barnett ’15, Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation

Andrew-BarnettOn the morning of Thursday, January 31, I woke up at 8:00 am for my Princeternship with Stephanie Freeth ’97 and the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation (AAACF).  It is usually cold, snowy, and icy in Michigan during the winter, but that Thursday was especially so! Fortunately, I was able to make it to the AAACF without too much difficulty, meeting Edgar Wang ’16 (the other Princetern) and Ms. Freeth soon after. As I walked in, I could tell that the AAACF was a positive, exciting place to be, and my later experiences would prove me correct.

Our first item on the agenda was to learn exactly how the AAACF (and other community foundations) worked. In particular, Ms. Freeth taught us “Fundraising 101.” Of the lessons in Fundraising 101, the one that most stuck with me is the fundraising pyramid. At the top are the most valuable gifts, such as bequests from wealthy donors, while at the bottom are the more numerous, smaller gifts such as annual gifts that might come through direct mailing. As one might expect, the most valuable donations (bequests, from wealthy donors) are also the most difficult to acquire – they require years of cultivating personal relationships, and ensuring the donor that their gift will be managed properly. Interestingly enough, the AAACF prefers to focus their efforts towards gifts at the top of the pyramid, but the reasons might not be the ones you expect. As a community foundation, the AAACF tries to avoid competing with other local non-profits for donations on the bottom of the pyramid (annual gifts that the foundation might get after direct mailing), because that would be counter-productive – their goal is to increase support for local nonprofits, not the opposite! Hence, by focusing on large donors, the AAACF can make everyone better off – the donors are better off because they know their donations are with a trustworthy and responsible caretaker, and the AAACF can support the surrounding area through grants and scholarships without competing with other nonprofits or community organization. The economist in me thought this was a unique real-world case of when the best outcome occurs by NOT competing – because everyone is on the same team!

A little bit past noon, we went to get lunch at Zingerman’s Deli, which is probably one of the best places to eat in the entirety of Ann Arbor. Edgar and I both went with the staff favorite “pork potpie,” and I ordered black cherry soda and a brownie, to which Ms. Freeth was kind enough to treat us. While we waited upstairs for our meal, we were able to talk about our lives, Princeton, Michigan, and society in general. Our meals arrived after ten minutes or so, and the food was as delicious as expected. We continued our discussion, and it was eye opening to see both how little Princeton has changed in some regards, and how it has changed a lot in other regards.

After lunch, we learned about the AAACF’s role in the Youth Council,Barnett 1 which was founded in the late 80s. The Youth Council is made up of students from local schools, and supports initiatives helping youths in the Ann Arbor area. In fact, the Youth Council is so important that there is a Youth Council member on the board with the same privileges as any other member! Upon learning about the Youth Council, we headed to a conference to discuss the AAACF’s social media and web presence. Having worked in web design and search engine optimization this summer, I found this discussion particularly engaging. What struck me the most was the question of whether the AAACF even needs a web presence – would a better online presence even help the AAACF with their goals, and if it did, could it possibly harm other nonprofits through excessive competition? The answer to this question seemed both important and difficult to answer, and it made me question some of my beliefs which I took for granted – is it actually necessary for a group to spend time, effort, and money to increase their online presence? At first, I thought the answer was almost certainly yes, but as I have learned repeatedly, the true answer is much more nuanced.

To end the day, we were able to pose some questions to Ms. Freeth and to her colleague, Neel Hajra. Now, it’s not entirely common to have people older and wiser than you give you the explicit opportunity to ask them questions about school and life after it. So, we asked questions of just that nature – do you have any advice for life and school? Simple question, but important as well. Neel’s advice was similarly poignant – “live like a grad student for three years – you don’t want to tie yourself down to a lifestyle” and “Ask: to what end am I doing this?” Neel later expanded on this advice, but as far as I can tell, everyone in the room – Edgar, Ms. Freeth, and me – thought the words were particularly sagely. To my surprise, it was already past 4:30, and our day at the AAACF was over! We gathered our things, took a few pictures with Ms. Freeth, and bid everyone goodbye. I walked out of the AAACF both very thankful to have the opportunity to meet Ms. Freeth and everyone else at the AAACF, and to learn so much in such a short time. I wholeheartedly recommend this experience to anyone who is reading this, and I would like to thank Ms. Freeth again for making the Princeternship experience excellent! Thank you!