My name is Lindsay Smetanka, and I am a senior at Seton Hall University majoring in Diplomacy and International Relations with minors in Arabic and Catholic Studies. I worked at International Crisis Group in New York City as a Government and Foundation Relations Intern. International Crisis Group is an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organization committed to preventing and resolving deadly conflict. Through field analysis, field advocacy, and policy suggestions, Crisis Group directly handles crisis and educates decision makers on future steps to resolve conflict happening throughout the world.
My day-to-day activities included tracking grant obligation outputs (advocacy meetings, reports, and briefings), working on database management projects, engaging with donors, and researching donor prospects. I was most interested in advancing Crisis Group’s monitoring and evaluation method to accurately measure the impact that the NGO’s outputs have in the international system, especially in areas experiencing crisis. With the rise of social media and technology, international NGO’s need to advance as well by using these methods to track who is viewing their content, where and if it is making the impact originally proposed, and how to improve engagement with donors and stakeholders. My coursework prepared me to think critically, write concise briefs, and meet deadlines. I learned how the grant-writing process works and how to communicate with professional contacts.
I believe that my internship has assisted in my goal to obtain a position as a development officer after graduation. Many jobs in the field require applicants to have experience with prospect research, Raiser’s Edge, donor engagement, and project management – all of the skills that I gained at Crisis Group. In addition, the internship exposed me to networking events and seminars in the city that helped me understand the non-profit development field better. As my first “big city” internship, it was definitely intimidating at times. The biggest challenge I faced as an intern was feeling like a small fish in a big ocean. When I first started, I doubted my qualifications, but after spending more time around my coworkers and the office culture, I became more comfortable and confident.
Some advice I can offer is that asking questions is an integral part of an internship, whether asking experienced professionals about their education and job history or asking coworkers about administrative processes. I gained knowledge through asking about something that I did not know or fully understand. In addition, networking in the office is essential to making the most out of the experience. Talking to coworkers on coffee and lunch breaks can open up new opportunities and help create working friendships. It also helps create a team mentality within the office, which is so crucial in a non-profit organization. I always left the office feeling confident that I helped advance the Crisis Group’s administrative process and mission. This feeling was the most rewarding part of my internship. I would definitely recommend this internship to my peers, as well as additional internship positions within Crisis Group.