2008 PFIG Recipient Alyssa Brown

Career Administrator

Alyssa Brown
College of Arts & Sciences
Undeclared
2010 Graduation Year

Internship: The Arthritis Foundation, NJ Chapter in Iselin, NJ.

I am extremely excited to devote my time, skills, and enthusiasm to the Arthritis Foundation of New Jersey, an organization that has helped me tremendously during my personal struggle with rheumatoid arthritis. As a special events intern, my main project is to plan the Jingle Bell Run/Walk for Arthritis, a 5k run that will take place in December. All proceeds from the event will support the research, programs, and services that help the 46 million Americans who have the disease. I am interested in pursuing a career within a nonprofit organization in the future, and I hope to gain practical experience in event planning, fundraising, and public relations.

Notes on the first week

When I arrived in the office in Iselin , New Jersey , I was given a warm welcome by the staff and an informative tour of the office. During my first meeting with my supervisor, the Director of Community Outreach, we discussed the details of my project. She told me that participants raised over $63,000 in 2007, and our goal is to double that amount this year. We established my professional goals for the summer, such as working on the development and recruitment of volunteers for each of the four event sites, conducting research to create internal databases of potential sponsors and volunteers, assisting in the initiation and follow-up of media contacts, creating marketing materials, and attending committee meetings. I want to recruit at least five new family or corporate teams to participate in the event, as well as secure local sponsorship for at least two locations. My supervisor has many years of experience in nonprofit event planning, and she is extremely eager to teach me how to plan an event from start to finish.

Throughout my first week, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the Arthritis Foundation entrusts a great deal of responsibility to their interns. After learning the basics of the computer system, I immediately began conducting research and creating databases of local schools, doctors, fitness centers, and businesses to invite to volunteer receptions in the four different site locations. I attended several meetings at which we established a plan for obtaining local, statewide, and media sponsorship. I never realized how difficult it is to gain sponsorship for an event. We must be careful not to reach out to sponsors that offer similar services or products that would violate our existing partnerships. I offered my ideas to target particular radio stations and businesses that I think would stand to gain from sponsoring the event. My supervisor took my suggestions very seriously and I hope to pursue them in the coming weeks!

Midway

As I approach the midway point of my internship, I am amazed that I have acquired so much practical experience in nonprofit event planning in such a short period of time. I have spent many days planning four receptions that we will use to recruit volunteers to serve on committees for each of the four Jingle Bell Run/Walk sites in New Jersey . To start, I spent many hours compiling lists of past participants and researching new potential volunteers to invite to each reception. After I sent out the invitations, I thought the majority of my preparation for the receptions was finished. However, I quickly discovered that the key term in nonprofit planning is follow-up. Follow-up, whether through phone calls, emails, or meetings, is how relationships are established and successful events are created. Admittedly, calling hundreds of strangers to confirm that they received their invitations and to encourage them to come to the event seemed like an extremely daunting task. However, I quickly realized that the more enthusiasm that I conveyed, the more successful I was at convincing people to come to the volunteer recruitment receptions. At the first reception, I was very pleased with the turnout of passionate people who were interested it helping to put together a great fundraising event for the Arthritis Foundation.

On another memorable day, I went "into the field" with my boss to try to arrange meetings with potential local sponsors in Hoboken and Jersey City . Not only did I get to see the Jersey City run site for the first time, but I also learned a tremendous amount just by watching my boss interact with potential sponsors. Although it is nearly impossible to meet with a doctor or office manager during an unexpected visit, she gathered important contact information to follow-up with people who may be interested in getting involved. After making these visits with her, I realized just how essential it is to have a dynamic personality and exceptional organizational skills in the field of event planning.

Last week, I arranged and went on my very own sponsorship meeting. The name of the game is to use connections that you have to build relationships that may eventually lead to sponsorships. I pursued a connection that I have with a general manager of a local chain restaurant to arrange a meeting. After doing some research, I discovered that one of the locations of this restaurant is in the middle of the run site in Jersey City ! Since we are looking for a restaurant to donate their venue and food for the finish line reception on the day of the event, I knew that this was an opportunity that I could not pass up. During the meeting, the general manager was impressed with the Jingle Bell Run/Walk and thinks that the restaurant may want to join in a partnership with the Arthritis Foundation. She agreed to give my sponsorship packet to the Jersey City manager during her next managers meeting. During the next few weeks, I will follow-up with this lead, as well as try to recruit teams to participate in the event.

Final Reflections

During the last few weeks of my internship, I applied all that I learned throughout the past two months to make significant contributions to my project, the Jingle Bell Run/Walk for Arthritis. I worked in conjunction with my boss to prepare for the first three volunteer recruitment receptions. Then it was up to me to plan and carry out the fourth volunteer recruitment reception from beginning to end. I began by conducting research to find local fitness directors and other professionals who may be interested in serving on a committee to help create a successful fundraising event for the Arthritis Foundation. I subsequently assembled the invitation materials and mailed out over 400 invitations. The next week, I followed-up on each invitation with a personal phone call. Although I was hesitant to make these types of phone calls at the beginning of my internship, I became increasingly confident in my ability to convince people to attend the reception. In fact, I really enjoyed conveying my enthusiasm for the event to the people that I spoke with. On the day of the event, I prepared the event material boxes and informational packets. I greeted the guests as they arrived, and I was extremely pleased at the turnout of dedicated people who were eager to serve on the committee.

My greatest accomplishment during my internship at the Arthritis Foundation came on my very last day in the office. After watching my boss build relationships that eventually led to sponsorship deals for the Jingle Bell Run/Walk, I decided to pursue my own sponsorship opportunity with Chilis Grill and Bar. As a longtime employee of my local Chili restaurant, I approached the general manager about putting me in touch with the general manager of the Chilis Grill and Bar in Jersey City, which happened to be right near the event running site! My manager was more than happy to give him my sponsorship proposal, and he agreed to meet with me in Jersey City on the last day of my internship. Chilis in Jersey City, a restaurant known for its community outreach, was willing to donate the food and venue for a finish line reception for about 250 participants on the day of the event. Instead of spending money on that reception, the Arthritis Foundation can now allocate those funds for research to find a cure for arthritis.

Despite the fact that my actual internship has come to an end, I am still going to be very involved in the planning of the Jingle Bell Run/Walk for Arthritis. I am currently focusing on the details of the Chilis sponsorship, as well as obtaining radio sponsorship for one of the sites. I will continue to recruit teams and encourage my family and friends to fundraise for the event. I truly enjoyed the challenge of trying to triple the amount of money that the Jingle Bell Run/Walk for Arthritis will raise to prevent and control arthritis. I was motivated by the fact that the money that the event raises will pay for children with arthritis to attend summer camp, will allow a newly diagnosed individual to receive informational brochures, and will support research to discover a cure for arthritis. I felt proud to talk about my work with all of my friends and family, and I constantly encourage them to donate even just a small amount of their time or money to a nonprofit organization that they support. You never know when you may need the assistance of a nonprofit organization, and their success is directly linked to the dedication and kindness of their volunteers and supporters.

In the future, I definitely want to pursue a career in public service. There is nothing more fulfilling than knowing that my hard work will improve the lives of millions of people. I believe that I have the perseverance and sociability that is required of an event planner, and I am strongly considering a career in this field. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Parents Fund and University Career Center for making this enlightening internship possible. The skills and knowledge that I have acquired throughout the past two months will remain with me for the rest of my life.