The challenges of Fundraising and a Perfect Balance between Life and Work
23-year-old Paolo from Italy is doing a Double Masters Degree in International Management at the Bocconi University in Milan. As part of his studies, he took the opportunity to discover the non-profit working environment for 2,5 months. He decided to do a Fundraising Internship in Cape Town with Greenpop, a steadily growing environmental NGO. Greenpop runs several environmental projects together with local communities to create a more sustainable future. It was Paolo’s first time ever working with an NGO. Just before the end of his internship, our Communications Intern Marie took the chance to interview Paolo in order to find out about his motivations to do an internship with Greenpop and his experiences as a Fundraising Intern in Cape Town.
1. Why did you choose an Internship with a Non-profit in Cape Town?
I made the decision to apply for an internship with Greenpop after I witnessed a speech made by an NGO at my university. What intrigued me the most is how different NGO’s are from companies which aim to maximize profits. I wanted to learn about how these companies survive and what truly motivates them. I chose Greenpop given that it is a developing organization in which my work could make an impact.
Furthermore, I was looking to meet other like-minded people from all over the world. Unlike some hierarchical organizations in which it is difficult to establish relationships with people from other departments, Greenpop has a very open-minded, family-like office culture. The Friday lunches together and the co-working space allowed me to get to know everyone in the office. In addition, Cape Town itself triggered me to stay for an internship. I wanted to explore all the beauty and natural diversity the city has to offer. In particular, I wanted to hike its mountains, visit its beaches, and tour neighboring towns.
2. What were your main tasks as a Fundraising Intern in Cape Town?
My main tasks were mastering direct mailing systems to prepare monthly donor newsletters, compiling reports for proposals and presentations, and writing event feedback reports. These reports serve as an overview of what has been achieved during the event with our partner’s help. In addition, I did research on new fundraising opportunities, partnerships, and corporate social responsibility. My daily tasks were always clear and accessible. On the other hand, very interesting since I had never worked in the fundraising field before.
3. What was your personal Impact on the Organization and on others?
With regards to my work as a Fundraising Intern, I was able to set up a meeting with the owner of another company. The aim of this meeting was to establish a partnership with Greenpop. Now, Greenpop and this other company are collaborating. This is a great achievement and I’m proud that I helped achieve it. Furthermore, I think that I brought a bit of the Italian culture into the office. People say that Italians are always cooking and in my case, that is absolutely true. One of my roommates also gave me the nickname, Carbonara which is my favorite Italian dish. It is pasta with eggs, guanciale, pecorino, and pepper. I cook it at least once a week!
4. What was the most memorable part of your Summer Internship?
I really enjoy running and working out. As a Fundraising Intern, I was given the opportunity to go to a meeting for a marathon event that Greenpop is partnering with. Greenpop raises money by selling the marathon tickets. Moreover, they want to set up a team that takes place in the marathon in September. I would have loved to be in Cape Town in September to run for Greenpop’s Team.
Another highlight, not related to the internship itself but to my whole experience here in Cape Town, is a 3-day road trip with other interns. We rented two cars and traveled to the Cape of Good Hope, Hermanus, and the West Coast National park. On the way back, just 10 minutes before returning the cars to the rental, one of the two cars stopped working in the middle of the highway which was terrifying at that moment. However, thinking about it now, it was one of the most memorable, even a bit funny moments because I saw panic in the eyes of a friend, who I’ve never seen under those circumstances.
5. What was the most challenging part of your Stay?
I was introduced into my internship with my first task to set up my own little fundraising project. The goal was to raise some money for Greenpop amongst my friends and family in Italy. The money would go into projects like tree planting and sustainable education in Southern Africa. That being said, it was really challenging since I feel that Italian people are very hard to convince to donate money. Especially, if it is for projects far away from them. Even though my fundraising project wasn’t a great success, I learned a one really important thing about the work of a fundraiser: In order to raise the money you have to be highly motivated, passionate and trained in persuading people. You have to know what is going on in people’s heads. Raising funds all by yourself is more challenging than I thought. So, I’m grateful for this experience.
6. What are you going to miss the most?
For sure I’m going to miss all the new friends I met here, we had great times together. I will remember the hikes together, the barbeque (braai, as people in South Africa, call it), all the fun night-outs, and the fantastic road trip. Waking up to the breath-taking view of Table Mountain every morning is another thing I will miss back home. I think the greatest benefit of doing an internship abroad is to be able to meet people from all over the world who can introduce you to their culture and different lifestyles. As an intern with Greenpop, I enjoyed a working environment with a proper balance between life and work. It made both learning and traveling with friends possible at the same time.
7. What would you tell someone else who wants to do a Fundraising Internship?
Do it! You will learn a lot about what motivates people to donate money and what they want in “exchange” for that. I understood that it is possible to make an impact in this world without being a big corporation and without having a lot of money. The key is to involve people who have the interest and motivation to make a difference. That way NGO’s like Greenpop can make the world a better place, step by step. To me, it was a valuable working experience because I learned how to network with potential fundraising partners and how to convince for-profit companies to be part of the Greenpop movement.
Paolo and his delicious Carbonara will be missed by his fellow interns!
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