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United Way intern shares valuable lessons from experience

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In the words of Napoleon Hill, “It is literally true that you can succeed best and quickest by helping others to succeed.” That’s one of many reasons United Way of Northeast Florida welcomes the opportunity to work with college students looking to leave their mark on the world. Savannah Wofford, communications student from University of North Florida, interned with United Way’s marketing department fall 2017. Checkout some of her highlights from her experience:

  1. As I reflect on my time at United Way of Northeast Florida, I immediately think of the people. The staff welcomed me with opened arms and continuously encouraged me throughout my internship. This work family strives to do more, do better and to help each other each day.
  2. United Way has taught me confidence in the workplace. I learned useful skills and engaged in real world scenarios that will come in handy post-graduation. I was tasked with projects such as website maintenance and tracking media mentions, both skills I know will translate throughout my career.
  3. United Way is passionate and mission driven. I quickly learned how important this is to me in a company’s culture. United Way stood out in this regard, with each staff member working to better the community around us by either offering assistance to people during hardship or organizing volunteer projects to brighten a local community center. It is so refreshing to not only learn what it means to market, but also do it by creating a positive revolution in our community’s health, financial stability and overall well-being.
  4. I’ve learned creativity is essential in the nonprofit sector. United Way thrives on new ideas, new donors, new initiatives and new campaign strategies. This taught me to think outside the box when planning new fundraising events and tactics, and finding new, modern ways to reach various markets and demographics. Researching and pitching new tactics and ideas for Giving Tuesday, an annual giving day, was one of my projects. I pitched the “Give 5, Get 5” campaign in order to reach new supporters and I’m excited to say my idea will be used in the future.
  5. The marketing department is very team-oriented. Not only does each member do their own work, they are constantly asking how to assist fellow teammates. Personally, I thrive in team-oriented environments. I’m constantly encouraged to do my best. This sense of unity has not only helped me develop a strong work ethic, I’ve also enhanced my people and time management skills.
  6. Another impactful aspect I encountered during my time with United Way was learning about the United Way network in Northeast Florida. United Way works closely with more than 50 agency partners to make change happen in our community. During my first week, I joined Community Builders training to learn more about United Way’s work. These training sessions illustrated how involved community partners are and how many opportunities there are to get involved. An event that stands out as an example is United Way’s annual kickoff, where hundreds of professionals came to rally and celebrate the new campaign season for United Way. With tables full of employees from United Way’s agency and corporate partnerships, networking and learning is inevitable.
  7. Making mistakes is a natural part of interning. Personally, this was my first office experience. I asked questions ranging from how to brand ScreenHub to how to print a poster correctly. I never felt embarrassed to ask these questions and was reminded no question is a dumb question. The team understood there was a learning curve and even after a couple of months, there still was, but that’s okay. This positive attitude about my concerns and questions only pushed me to do a better, more thorough job and left me feeling like I contributed. I don’t think all internships give you this kind of experience and I am so grateful it’s one I had.
  8. United Way walks the walk and talks the talk. Not only do they recruit volunteers for projects, but the staff also volunteers at events and projects whether it’s a United Way event or a partner’s event. This is important to me; it shows they make a difference in and out of the office. Being able to experience the campaign or fundraiser you helped create is just another reason why interning with United Way was the right choice (and best choice) I could have made.
  9. A unique professional skill I acquired while interning was flexibility. I soon realized, in marketing, hardly anything goes smoothly from beginning to end result. For example, this fall, Hurricane Irma made its way through Florida devastating thousands of families across the state. For United Way, this meant go-time. Florida’s First Coast Relief Fund was on the forefront of United Way’s agenda in preparation for aiding those after the storm’s destruction. While many were leaving town and thinking only about their immediate needs, United Way and partners were preparing not only their families’ needs, but thousands of others before evacuation time. For the marketing team, work didn’t stop even at home unless power was lost. This experience gave me the flexibility to change course and focus on immediate issues at hand. Emergencies will come up in the field of communication and United Way definitely prepared me for that.
  10. Finally, interning at United Way molded me into a better leader — a leader of hope, a leader of opportunity and a leader of success. The skills I gained from website management, research, media relations, event planning and more has given me the experience I need to confidently go into the communication field as a leader; unafraid to ask questions, try new tasks and be a team player. This internship has completely changed my understanding of nonprofits, the workforce and my community in an meaningful and positive way. I will miss this experience and atmosphere!

United Way of Northeast Florida is currently accepting applications for 2018 spring interns. If you’re interested in applying, visit unitedwaynefl.org/careers.

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United Way of Northeast Florida, a philanthropic organization, works to solve our community's toughest challenges by connecting people, resources and ideas. We envision a community of opportunity where everyone has hope and can reach their full potential.

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