You know you are on the road to success if you would do your job, and not be paid for it.
My apologies for the lack of post yesterday – let’s just say, it was a rough week, and a long one at that. Yesterday’s activities included a long walk, delivery sushi, cookies (!), and lots of mindless television. Just what the doctor ordered.
I thought now might be a good time to explain what, exactly, I do at my internship with WiserEarth.
When I made the decision to move out here for another internship, the first thing I started to focus on was finding a paying job. I took a weekend to fly out and look at apartments here, and managed to schedule a couple job interviews – but none of them worked out. When one of them followed up with me, I was informed that I was one of hundreds of applicants – for a part-time administrative position. Great.
I realized that though I know I am capable of doing a job just as well if not better than most people, employers looking at my resume will be much harder to convince. I was feeling completely lost about what direction I wanted to go in – stick with social media? branch out into public relations? stay in the non-profit sector, or just look for a company I like? In the midst of this career identity crisis, a couple people mentioned off-hand that I might consider getting into grant writing. Between my writing skills and my insistence on working for something (not just someone), it made a lot of sense. And what better way to get into a field than internships? If it ain’t broken, right?
I’m pretty sure this was meant to happen, because when I searched for “grant writing internship” in the Bay Area, one popped up immediately: WiserEarth, a non-profit based in Sausalito, was looking for a grant writing intern – and it was paid. I’m not sure I could have asked for a more exact fit. I honestly didn’t think I would get it, but it sounded a lot better than waitressing or answering phones and I’m a huge proponent of the “why not?” mindset.
I flew out here on a Tuesday; I had an interview with the Executive Director on Friday, and was offered the position on the spot. THAT was a good day. It took a week to figure out the commute, which is…well, we’ll just call it “scenic,” but overall it’s been a really wonderful experience so far.
WiserEarth is essentially the “green Facebook” – its website, Wiser.org, is the social network for sustainability. (Its nickname is Wiser – just easier to say!) It was founded in 2007 by Paul Hawken, who is kind of a big deal in the environmental/social entrepreneur scene. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel just a tad stupid when I didn’t know who he was before, but luckily my mother knew exactly who he is and enlightened me. ANYway, WiserEarth was founded based on the idea that there are a bajillion people and organizations out there working towards very similar (if not the exact same) goals, but they have no idea each other exists. Just imagine if all of these like-minded organizations all over the world had a place to talk to each other, share resources, say “this is what worked for us, this is what we accomplished, etc etc etc” – their progress and impact would be so much greater. This concept is one I just love – I’ve been in the non-profit sector long enough that I have often thought, “damn, X and X organizations should really work together to get this done.” The other major project of ours is the WiserLocal programs, which are meetings that happen in various cities all over the world where individuals can meet colleagues in their areas and do exactly what they can do on the website, but in person. The idea is that through collaborations, people & their organizations can make a much greater impact, and while the global network of connections is important, the local level is where all of these solutions can actually be carried out. Everything is free, and our data is open-source so it can be repurposed by organizations who need a similar infrastructure but can’t pay for it. [Side note: My job is largely to communicate all of that, usually within a character/word limit, and make it even more coherent than that…it is NOT easy!]
My work there is all development, all the time – I research potential new foundations for grants, write letters of inquiry for grant proposals, assist in the actual writing of the proposals, and work in most aspects on the fundraising/donor support for the organization. I was hired first and foremost for my writing skills, and I love that – especially since I get to do a lot of proofreading, which I really enjoy. [I even got paid to do it in college. THAT was awesome.] Since starting in March, I’ve written my first LOI, helped write mid-year and closing reports for past grants, see the beginnings of a major donor campaign, and done TONS of grant/foundation-related research. And for reasons I am still trying to uncover…I really like it. This is another post entirely, but I find the whole fundraising world really interesting and that is not something I ever saw coming, like, ever. Seriously. WTF, me.
All jobs have their flaws, but I have really enjoyed the work I’ve been doing at Wiser overall. It’s not sustainable-food-focused, but the nice thing is that it is about sustainability in general, so it’s included under a larger umbrella. It’s also just an awesome organization to work with. Besides the fact that it’s a global network (making my inner travel junkie very happy) for a cause that makes so much sense to me, it’s a very well-run operation. Especially so considering our staff of 7 is literally all over the world: besides the ED and program director here in the Bay Area, our marketing/communications director is in Paris, our online community manager is in Australia, and we have three other staff in India, Indonesia and West Africa, respectively. We have interns everywhere (China, Germany, and the US at the moment), and an incredible number of awesome volunteers. I have been SO impressed with the responsiveness and constant self-evaluation of the leadership- the phrase “small but mighty” describes Wiser very well.
It’s definitely been a whirlwind, and I’m a little confused as to how it is JUNE right now, but I’m just trying to go with the flow and learn as much as I possibly can.
Now, did all of this make sense? Because I’m dead serious when I say most of my job is about explaining what Wiser does in as few words as possible, and I am ALWAYS looking for feedback as to how I can make it clearer. So let me know if I can clarify anything – it helps me! I think that just about covers it. Have a lovely end of your weekend!
As usual, all original sources of the photos are linked to the photo itself!