Hello blog readers! I’m A., currently a junior at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business. I’m studying applied economics, as well as strategies for helping businesses become more green. This summer, I was an Intern for the People’s Resource Center.
You are probably wondering why a business student decided to spend her summer working at a local nonprofit instead of a bank or accounting firm? The answer is: it was fun!
However, if you are a potential employer, I’d also add, “Working at a nonprofit gave me the opportunity to see how an organization can make a huge impact with fewer funds, employee hours, and resources than found in a more traditional setting.”
Before I set foot in the PRC, I had a phone call with the Director of Adult Learning to discuss my interests and how much of a time commitment I could give. She is serious about making a lasting impact on her organization and that meant finding a good fit for my skills and interests. Allowing me to sit down with her, identify a need in the PRC together, and then giving me the freedom to tackle that problem was incredibly refreshing. In business school, we are taught structured thinking, and discussing in teams, which is fantastic for solving certain types of problems but can be stifling to creativity.
Here, I could test out an idea, see if it worked, and then modify it quickly to get the best result.
My favorite project was the book distribution study I organized. Books are important at PRC because they empower people in many ways. Having books in the home has been proven to increase employment and education outcomes exponentially. Of course, books are especially important for children’s developing minds.
The PRC receives donated books from many community sources including individuals, book drives and libraries. Instead of moldering away on shelves, unread for years, donated books are offered free to the people that the PRC serves.
This book share program developed over many years without much input–other than “yes, let’s do it!” There was no system to track how many books were coming in, or how many were being given out, and no way to evaluate the environmental impact of PRC’s book recycling.
I started by counting books and creating tabulation sheets. How many boxes were in storage? How many books per box? How much did each box weigh? Who put books on the shelf and how many went out each time?
The director brought in her bathroom scale and I trudged down to the basement to physically weigh over seventy boxes, each one tipping the scale at over 50 pounds. (Whew!) Then, I measured bindings and calculated an accurate sample book length and width for adult hardback, paperback and children’s books. I used all these figures, and a seriously cool excel spreadsheet, to calculate total books in storage and the tons of material being kept out of landfills.
The tabulation sheets were gathered all summer and that data was entered as well. Before long, the calculations showed that over 800 books a week were flowing through the PRC offices in Wheaton and Westmont!
No one had any idea how many books were being handed out or how many tons of waste were kept from the landfill until my project was completed.
What other internship would let me literally get my hands dirty, while testing my business analysis skills and making a real difference to an organization?
Banking and accounting are great, but this summer I learned to respect the PRC’s focus on a deeply connected mission, and doing more with less.