Non-Profit Fundraising & Event Planning

Sophia A. Gatto-Smith
Emphasis Area
Public Health

Sophia Smith-Gatto advanced her skills and experience in conducting outreach to partner organizations for fundraising efforts and event coordination.

How did you get your internship? 

I started looking for an internship by going through the Public & Applied Humanities Internship Opportunity Hub and found a listing for an inclusive children’s literacy nonprofit. This was exactly the type of internship I was looking for, so I reached out to the contact person listed to ask if they were accepting applications for interns at that time. The parent organization responded to let me know they were not accepting applications for interns, and the Arizona chapter did not have an official internship program, so I thought I wouldn’t be able to pursue an internship opportunity with them at the time. However, I persevered and decided to make a pitch. I explained my passion and previous experience to the director of the Arizona chapter and they were more than happy to take me on as an intern. 

Why did you choose this internship?

After serving on the Board of Directors for the Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona for four years, I fell in love with nonprofit work and seeing the impact that work could have on people. After a previous nonprofit development internship, I realized that I could use my fundraising and event planning skills as a means to help people. I chose this internship because I knew I would be able to gain invaluable experience in event planning and fundraising for a nonprofit. I was also incredibly excited about the type of work this inclusive children’s literacy organization does, as it greatly aligns with my personal and professional values. 

What kind of work did you do throughout your internship experience? 

Throughout my internship experience, the work I did was mostly related to development (fundraising) and events planning. I did outreach to other organizations, whether that be venues for our fundraiser or partner organizations, and communicated with them in order to help reach our goals. I was able to learn a lot about how to communicate effectively with diverse audiences, which is an incredibly important skill when doing so much outreach. I organized data and documented procedures related to the planning of our fundraiser, including creating a fundraising handbook filled with my tips and tricks and a detailed blueprint for the approach we took to planning our fundraiser. As a small, new organization, my internship site did not have any sort of documentation of procedures for past fundraising events. With my handbook, they will be able to look back on how we planned our fundraiser, see what steps we took, and be able to follow those steps or adapt them for future fundraisers, which will be helpful for their future development endeavors.

What was the most rewarding part of your internship? 

I would say the most rewarding part of my internship experience was going over my internship supervisor’s midpoint check-in feedback. I was incredibly nervous to do this, as I am an overly self-critical person, so I was expecting to hear a lot of criticism. However, my internship supervisor was nothing but kind and supportive, explaining to me how much of an impact I had already made on the organization despite it only being the midpoint of my internship. She emphasized how my perspective has been incredibly valuable to them, and how the way that I approach fundraising - with empathy - is special, and to make sure that I continue with this. The entire experience caused me to reflect on myself and I feel like I was able to grow as a person thanks to her support. 

How has your internship experience influenced your plans for your future? 

This internship experience has further confirmed my desire to go into fundraising and events planning for a nonprofit organization after I graduate. It has also shown me the importance of finding a nonprofit organization with a specific work environment - one that promotes empathy, understanding, and prioritization of my wellbeing. I have learned through my other experiences that this work environment is rare, but makes such a positive impact on the lives of everyone involved with the organization, including myself. I was able to find this environment through my internship and I hope to be able to find a similarly fulfilling work environment after I graduate. 

What advice do you have for other students as they search for and begin their internship? 

My biggest piece of advice for other students as they search for their internships is to keep going. You are going to encounter a lot of obstacles, whether that be not hearing back from internships you apply for, having ambiguous responsibilities at your internship, or something else. Despite the obstacles, it is so important to persevere and keep going, even when it’s hard. As you begin your internship, you also need to be able to ask questions as they arise. Although it can be intimidating, asking questions is so important to developing relationships at your internship and allows people to see things from your perspective.