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How to Get Maximum Value with Intern Engagements
Marc Propst is a Senior at the University of Lynchburg (Lynchburg, VA), graduating with a Bachelor’s in Political Science. In the short time frame that Marc has been a college student, he has had many different internship experiences with Non-Profits from different industries. Marc is currently the project management intern at the Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance, a 5-star accredited Chamber of Commerce & Economic Development Center. Marc is also the Deputy Executive Director and Executive Council Member of the Non-Profit, Spectrum Arts Society. Marc is also a co-founder of the Office of Equity & Inclusion at the University of Lynchburg. The Office is aimed at providing Diversity & Inclusion efforts for the University. Creating this office helps to foster community and an inclusive environment allows for all members of the University, from students to alumni & friends. A life goal that Marc has is to be President of the United States, to help even more people.
College students are the future of the workforce, whether it will be in the For-Profit area or Non-Profit area. These students could be in charge of your organization. Help them to connect with others in the community, bring them to events, expose them to amazing opportunities that the world has to offer. You can help shape our future to become better leaders, thinkers, and advocates. Take the time to invest in the future because you were one of us too.
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Hugh Ballou: Greetings, friends. It’s another great episode of The Nonprofit Exchange with Hugh Ballou and Russell Dennis. Russell, good afternoon to you.
Russell Dennis: Greetings and salutations to all our viewers. Thank you, and welcome again.
Hugh: People might be listening to this way in the future, so we don’t talk about particular dates. I’m getting older, so we won’t talk about dates. We are broadcasting live as we record this podcast. We have people from all over the world listening to us. Our topic today is a topic I know a lot of leaders struggle with. We get interns, and everything is going to be great. We don’t know how to set up the program and bring value to both sides. We have Marc Propst from Lynchburg. He is a multi-faceted social entrepreneur because you have a lot of things going on. What he wrote on our information form was, “College students are the future of the work force, whether it will be in the for-profit area or the nonprofit area. Students could be in charge of your organization. Help them to connect with others in the community, bring them to events, expose them to opportunities that the world has to offer. You can shape our future to become better leaders, thinkers, and advocates. Take the time to invest in the future because you were one of us at one time, too.” Marc, that is so true. Not only the future, but you are the present. Tell us about you. Marc Propst?
Marc Propst: I am a senior political science major at the University of Lynchburg here in Lynchburg, Virginia. Like you said, I am a multi-faceted social professional. I have had the opportunity to learn how nonprofits work in many industries. One is through the private nonprofit university educational system and how that works. I am also the deputy executive director of a nonprofit here in Lynchburg called Spectrum Arts Society, which is a nonprofit organization focusing on the advocation and continued dialogue to the LGBTQ community and allies talking about issues and advocating for rights through music and events. Right now, we are planning on hosting the first pride festival on April 13 in Lynchburg. That is a big thing. The other thing I have is I am part of a nonprofit chamber of commerce. The Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance is a five-star nonprofit economic development center/chamber of commerce that has helped me a lot in terms of business views on how nonprofits work, how they should be run, how they should be managed, and continue to work on that. I got a good perspective from three different industry variations of what nonprofits could look like.
Hugh: What is that thing on your shirt? It says “Lynchburg Hornets.”
Marc: Yeah. It’s our mascot. We are the Lynchburg Hornets. That is what I am wearing as a representation of the school.
Hugh: University of Lynchburg?
Hugh: Last July, they turned from a college into a university.
Marc: It was a major change because even though we have been set as a university status for a long time, through a lot of market studies and talks and facilitations and discussions, it is best serving the students when we can say as college graduates, we went to a university rather than a college. That is also international. University is more synonymous with higher education than high school and so on.
Hugh: It is a different take on different countries. You were in several nonprofit hats. The University of Lynchburg is a higher education institution nonprofit, started by one of our denominations of the church. The Disciples of Christ, I believe?
Hugh: You’re the deputy director of-?
Marc: Deputy executive director of the nonprofit Spectrum Arts Society.
Hugh: You work for the 501(c)6, which is a membership nonprofit. Regional Business Alliance. What was the other hat?
Marc: Under the Spectrum Arts Society hat, I am one of the main four people who is building the Hill City Pride festival in Lynchburg. I have three main hats, but one of those is a lot of project management and business stuff.
Hugh: Which is a missing part for a lot of nonprofit leaders around the world. Why are you studying political science? I am curious about this.
Marc: I love government. I love politics. I love the mass of politics. It’s a very messy world. I want to run for president one day. Working toward that deal. There is not a lot of actual practicing political scientists who became president. I think the last one, I should know this, was Woodrow Wilson, but I don’t know for sure. It’s actually using an actual political scientist. Barack Obama did a lot of constitutional law, which is one fundamental part of political science. I just love the mess of politics. I love being able to build relationships with people. How can I as a political leader actually use the government to help all people, and not just the few? Not be defunct and always worry about when the next shutdown is going to be.
Hugh: Russell, he said politics is messy. That’s novel, isn’t it?
Russell: You have to be having a blast. It’s not going to get much messier than it is right now.
Marc: No, it is not. It has never been easy. It’s always something new, no matter what side you’re on.
Hugh: You do have some unique expertise through your many hats. You’re serving as an intern at the Business Alliance. There are different kinds of internships, free internships and paid internships. There are internships for credit. When I was in Blacksburg, I had business school students working for my for-profit company who wanted to study leadership. They had a course for internships. They needed 100 hours. That was a free one. There are also people who have paid gigs in the profession they are interested in. Why would a student want to do an internship? What’s in it for you?
Marc: What’s in it for me? For me, it is the connection piece. Building the connections for me is one of the most important things because it helps build your network in the region. I know so many people in the Lynchburg region before coming to the town for college. If you grew up in the region, you would have the networks from your life. If you were transplanted in through college, you wouldn’t get that. A political piece for me as well. Getting connections because you start learning who your constituents would be. How do they think? How would they vote? What are their issues? What are solutions I can figure out? The biggest piece for me is the connection piece.
But also I get so much experience. My resume on LinkedIn is much bigger now. It is more bolstered. It helps me to be able to ask for a potential job, depending on where I go. That is a big critical piece for any college student after they graduate. Do you have a job lined up? Do you know the people who could help you get that job?
Hugh: You see a unique perspective as an intern. You and I see each other on the first Friday at the Business Alliance with a coffee mixer. You and I have talked here and there. We are talking about the experience that an intern can bring to an organization. Do you remember those conversations? You are enlightening me. I struggled when I had interns to figure out how to work with them. You have people in school who don’t have the real-life technical knowledge. People say they do, but you realize they really don’t. Connecting from theory to reality. Talk about how an employer or a nonprofit executive could have a conversation with an intern. How can we have that conversation? Turn it around. Talk about your perspective in approaching an organization. What would be in it for you? How would you ask questions?
Marc: In terms of an employer, one of the big things I would say is the student is coming to you, or they have applied to your company to be an intern. They’re interested in learning more about your company. They are interested in something. One of the first things you want to do is build a relationship with that intern. What is it that you want to do? What is it that you want them to do? What is it they want out of this? What experience do they want? Some interns will give those simple answers they always give that I would say, “I want to learn more.” There is a piece. Interns are very curious about something. It’s trying to find out what they’re curious about. Are you curious about a nonprofit’s mission? Are you curious about how this nonprofit works? It’s deeper than that. Building that relationship is also important because it helps build that connection. It helps you as an employer be able to say to an intern, “What do you think about this?” Whatever your mission is, depending on it, you want it to last a long time. You built the nonprofit not just for a committee that stays on there for a year, but you built it to last for a while. After a point, there are college students who might work for the nonprofit or use the nonprofit in some way. You can get a perspective on how your nonprofit is adapting to the changing times and the changing political landscape and the changing generations, and how do we become more adapted to that? Like the Lynchburg Business Alliance, they have to adapt to their workforce because of college students, but also what the work force is looking for. Is the work force looking for more engineers? You also have to look at the student side of it. Am I going to get a job? That is one of the biggest things interns will look at. Am I going to get a job here? Can this person connect me with someone who might be able to help?
On my own side, I’m much more of a curious person. I love learning things. Anything and everything. For me, looking at nonprofits, I’m not really too afraid of things. I can go up to someone and have a conversation with them. What we had talked about was the connective piece of how do you connect your higher education to your nonprofit to create that local bond? How do you create your chamber to your nonprofits to your students? There is a bigger piece to this that a lot of people aren’t hitting. There needs to be more connections between the schools and the students and the nonprofits. Those college students and the generations after are what is going to be the next leaders and workers and utilizers of the nonprofits, no matter what you’re in.
I’m also trying to remember what we talked about. I know we had talked about one big piece, but I can’t remember what that was.
Hugh: How to interface with interns so that there is some real practical work that is done. You don’t want to sit there and learn all the time. You want to apply it.
Marc: That’s a big thing, too. Everything I have learned just from spending time with the Alliance, I have used in other ways. I have reapplied it. I think a lot of it is how do you as an older generation communicate effectively and utilize resources you have now with college students? You can mold students to become better leaders somehow. It really boils down to how do you communicate with that person? Communication is huge. I learn from a staff at the Alliance. Our CEO Megan Lucas, I learn different pieces from her. The COO, Christine Kennedy, I learn pieces from her. The membership/development Vice President, Heath Barret, I learn things from him: how to get sponsors, how to get donors, how to be able to talk to different businesses. I use that at the Hill City Pride Festival, where I was able to talk to potential sponsors and vendors to donate their money to Hill City Pride to become effective. Interfacing with the student is a continual learning curve. You as the leader will be like, I want you to learn it this way, but the student may not be able to. You have to have that communication between one another to build that connection and build that interfacing.
Hugh: Hey Russell, he called us the older generation. Did you pick up on that?
Russell: Yes. It’s true. I believe it boils down to vision. When somebody walks in there, what is that vision? What is that vision for what a better world looks like? What is that vision for what you want your life to look like? Also finding out what those superpowers are. You can work together to create a meaningful experience. Nonprofits are here to do meaningful work. The idea is to create a meaningful experience that will serve both the student and the nonprofit. That skillset and vision may not be a fit. That’s ok. You find something that is a better fit. If not, you work to that and find out if there is some synergy, and proceed from that point on. Get some agreement on what you want out of that experience. That is a mutual agreement that comes from talking with one another and finding out what that looks like.
Marc: I think communicating that vision is going to be important because when you do, then they’re like, This is a real reason why that nonprofit is here. Freedom 424 deals with human exploitation and human trafficking. It’s easy to communicate that vision because that’s what we know they do. You can communicate to your potential interns the vision. Here is what we have been able to do. Here are our testimonials and our ideas. Vision is key. Being able to communicate that vision effectively is key. It may be that the vision needs to be changed. Nonprofits go through changes all the time to look at the vision and make sure they are aligned with it. They may need that realignment. If you are able to communicate that with your interns, this is a vision, this is a mission, the intern may be able to help you see that maybe it is aligned, and maybe it isn’t. You both can work together not to change the vision, but refine the vision to make it better and more applicable to what you really want it to do.
Hugh: You start with a vision and learn what it is. When I work with start-up nonprofits, we work through all the strategy and find we need to tweak the original vision. Not totally different, but they didn’t get the whole picture. Or they had something so big, so pie-in-the-sky that nobody could do it. There is a practical side. As you’re talking about this, I’m thinking some of the same issues that interns have with employers might be some of the same issues staff have. Communication, clarity of purpose. How are you going to clarify what you can bring to the table? How do you have that conversation?
Marc: How do you clarify and communicate that effectively?
Hugh: You have a certain interest. How do you apply that to what they need? How do you find that fit?
Marc: It’s that relationship building piece. You might have your own fit, and they might have their own fit. If you just bring in an intern and don’t build a relationship, there won’t be any meshing of the fitting. It will be very dry, simple, no communication, no work. The intern will be not as effective as his/her job. Then the nonprofit doesn’t benefit from the intern.
Communication for me is always a learning thing. It’s hard for me to be able to communicate with someone, but it does take some time for me because I first have to make sure I understand how their communication style. That question is hard. For me, it’s hard right now because I am still learning a lot of communicating, being able to figure how the meshes work. But I think that it’s an applicable thing. It’s a continual learning process.
Russell: You have a vision for what a better world looks like and what your superpowers are, your talents and skills. What are some things you’d like to accomplish and create? That is where that conversation blends in. If you walk into an agency and start understanding what they do, you can talk about how your superpowers and your vision fit in. It’s about something that is in alignment. I think alignment is really important. It’s important to make sure that whatever you take on is in alignment with what you do. If it’s not that fit, I can’t wait to get out of bed, and I get to go do this, versus, Well, I have to go in here. It’s creating an experience that serves both the organization and the individual. That’s important, whether somebody is an intern, staff member, or volunteer, serving on your board – if you don’t have that alignment, it’s not necessarily the best fit.
Marc: I don’t want to continue to say it’s all the nonprofit’s job to do this or that. It’s also on the intern themselves. They have to understand that the world is real. Once you leave college, you’re going to be faced with so many different things. You should have to try and take that chance with experiencing what you can with whatever nonprofit that you have. Learn every opportunity possible. Get exposure to things they may normally not be exposed to. I brought a member into the alliance; that is not something interns do. I brought them in because I wanted exposure and the idea of it. I presented the case to the board and talked to them about it. I was able to bring them in. Now they are a yearly member. I have been working on a second potential member as well.
It’s not all on the nonprofits themselves. It’s also the nonprofit interns who have to do some of the work. You wanted to get into this job. You have to let them know what it is you want to do. Do you want the connections? Do you want the experience? I want the experience and the connections because it helps me to learn more and be a better leader. You have to let everyone know what it is that you want. If you don’t know what you want, be open to learning about the possibilities of what you want. You may not know, and that’s okay. You want to keep your mind open.
Russell: Talk about some of the steps you took personally to position yourself to take advantage of opportunities that might come up for you to go out and make a difference in the world. What types of nonprofits based on that preparation would be a good fit?
Marc: Steps. Oh goodness. What did I do? A lot happened. A lot had happened just in my own personal experience. Being a very light-skinned African-American gay male has caused a lot of situations that maybe some people may not be able to present. It’s first being understanding of who you are, and accept that as that. Then you have to understand, What do you want to do? What do you want to try and accomplish in the world? It’s one big step for me personally as to become self-aware of my self, my surroundings, who I am, and how I want to present myself, and how I always want to be.
A lot of it was also luck. A lot of it was also the people I knew. Before I really got two of the hats, the Alliance hat and the Spectrum hat, I still had the University hat. College is college. There are good times and bad times, up times and down times, and in the middle times. Some events happened. I am one of the co-founders of a department here on campus called the Office of Equity and Inclusion. It is aimed at serving every student, faculty, staff, alumni, everybody. Every single person that interacts with the university in some way. It is to try to build a more inclusive environment that students can learn in, students can have these dialogues in, and go on from there. One of the people I knew was named Dr. Aaron Smith. He is the head of the office. He is part of the Alliance’s executive board. He is part of the board of directors of the Alliance. That is who they report to. He knew Christine Kennedy, my internship boss, was looking for an intern. I had known about the position, but I didn’t really know about it. One day, I was in his office, and he was like, “Hey, do you want this position?” Me being me, I said yes. Just that entire opportunity was just that. It’s also for interns, it’s building your collegiate connections first. Then you can build your collegiate connections outside into the community. That was what happened for me.
For the Spectrum hat, I had a friend on the board at the time. He brought me in to a meeting. I went to a couple. Next thing, I was voted on as deputy executive director. I am 20 years old, or 19, and I am deputy executive director of a nonprofit. It is still growing. It was a much newer organization then. That was a serious crash course in nonprofit world, nonprofit management and budgeting and financing and the board and governance, laws, bylaws. How to make sure you stay legal. That is important, especially with the IRS. They are stingy about making sure you are legal on that. That is what I learned. I was able to learn it through experiencing it.
It was a lot of opportunities and luck and getting myself out there and exposing myself to things that college kids just don’t do. You get out there and try. The worst people can say is no. Then you try again and try again. You can’t give up on one thing just because you don’t have it. You always want to try and try again. It’s continuing to build those relationships, build those connections, and get those experiences. Even having the experience of hearing the word “no” and asking people, you get the experience of talking to people, which builds how you communicate, how you present yourself, public speaking. Every opportunity, every single day that I wake up, I learn something new, whether it be at my classes, my internship, learning how to make sure I download the right app so I can do this. Experiences every day. I wake up knowing that. It’s okay. I’m happy about it. Sometimes things happen. It’s the nonprofit world. Things change every day. But it’s a fun world to be in. Higher education is also a fun world to be in. That’s all I really did: put myself out there and try to tackle down those walls. I have been taking them down one step at a time.
Hugh: That’s a great story. Get out there and do it. People complain about no opportunity. You show up and made opportunity happen. You talked about relationship for getting a job. Relationship is underpinning for leadership, but it’s also the underpinning for communication. If you have a relationship with someone, they will listen to you differently. Russell, this guy could be the poster image for SynerVision with what he just talked about. This is great.
Marc, you have so much experience. Russell, the Business Alliance was a former chamber of commerce and some other organization that merged.
Marc: The Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance is a five-star accredited chamber of commerce and economic development center. It combines five counties and cities within them, including the city of Lynchburg itself. It’s about a 900-member chamber, and it deals with the economic development side as well. There are two houses within one. They both work with each other. There is also Leadership Lynchburg, the leadership executive forum. I am starting on a project, and it’s almost done to build a college version of the Leadership Lynchburg program. College students will now get that leadership experience, too.
Hugh: That’s great. I really love the title for the University of Lynchburg Center for Equity and Diversity.
Marc: It’s the Office of Equity and Inclusion.
Hugh: Inclusion. Those are such great words. I hate this word “equality” like you want to blend everybody and make them the same. Equity is what it’s about. It’s a celebration. What is your role in that?
Marc: I was one of the co-founders. There is a backstory. I was one of the main leaders that helped to bring this office together. This is a big stamp on my legacy here at the University is I was able to create this permanent departmental office. I also sat on the strategic planning committee for the Diversity Strategic Plan that looks at all levels and sections of the college community and looked at what did we want this to be? What was our mission? What was our vision? How will we effectively communicate with it? Diversity, inclusion, and Title IX issues. That is also pinned under the diversity/inclusion world. That is sexual harassment and domestic violence and relationships. All of that has been a big part of my legacy. I was also part of the co-founders and chairperson of the Student Diversity Council, which brings together 12 members of the Lynchburg community, all students, all hand-picked and interviewed from different sections and identities that we had within the community. Athletics, Greek life, LGBT, black, Asian, Latino, all different types of potential representatives that we could, all in one council that met and looked at student policies. What is wrong from a student side? What is going on?
Hugh: This is a validation, Russell. We talk about collaborative opportunities a lot. People talk about it as theory and how we do it. Marc, you and I have to have a follow-up conversation about collaboration in Lynchburg. We’re talking about it a lot. SynerVision is talking about the University’s Center for Nonprofit Leadership that SynerVision would launch for collaborative opportunities.
Marc: That’s one of my biggest things for me that I have always loved and talked about. The university itself has amazing programs and amazing ability to collaborate within its community. It has a nonprofit leadership studies center. Honestly, so many nonprofits here, and in the Lynchburg region, could come to the Lynchburg University and get nonprofit leadership stuff. There is a center on educational leadership. There is a center on physicians’ assistants. There is now a center on nursing, and cybersecurity. There are so many collaborative efforts, and I have seen this globally. We like to sit within our bubbles and don’t like to talk to each other. That’s weird because for a university that has been here since 1903, you have to have your stamp on what you want to do. That’s for any college or university. People say the University of Virginia is an hour north. It’s its own wonderful thing. Let the University of Lynchburg be like the University of Virginia, but down here in its own area. It’s unique. It’s able to do so many amazing things in its own way. We just need to be uncomfortable with the idea of change and go to it. Throw yourself out there. You are going to have many things like that. That’s why I have said so many times you have the ability to collaborate, to research, to bring forth so many amazing ideas, but you have to actually set it up. No one has been trying to set it up.
Hugh: You heard it right here. Let’s talk right after this. I have a channel for you for that passion. This collaborative thing is not just talk. Russell, if you want something to happen, you should get an intern. We’re talking about the value of interns. What do you have bubbling up under that hairy head of yours?
Russell: The Denver Foundation has done a lot of work on diversity and inclusion. It has been a problem for the sector. New thinking around this, but people who are acting upon it, is vital for the lifeblood of nonprofits and for-purpose enterprises. I’d like to rename them because we are working on purpose. Collaboration is not a dirty word. It’s something that is there. The opportunities to collaborate are endless. I just had my Optimists meeting last night. I had a young lady come to our club and speak. I had never met her. Her project is something that is suitable for one of my clients. I just start conversations everywhere. Always looking for ways to bring people together because there is that synergistic impact that as a collective, we are able to have. The impact is greater than the sum of the parts that come together to make it. 1+1=4. There is an exponential impact that takes place when people come together to collaborate.
One of the things we talk about SynerVision that Hugh has been working with leaders for a long time, is this idea of being able to ask for the support you need. How do you go about asking for the support that you need? It’s not just an intern who would have that type of problem. You have leaders in organizations who don’t necessarily know how to do that or haven’t taken the time to do that. That’s important for a leader to know what he/she does or doesn’t know. Getting that support from those people, and tapping into the genius that you have under your roof. A lot of people, and I’m sure you have seen a lot of genius that comes from all corners of the organization, diversity is not just about how people look, but how they think, how they approach things. The inclusion piece is critical.
Marc: Whether you’re a nonprofit or for-profit, you will need diversity and inclusion in your life. If you want to stay in business, you want it to be diverse and inclusive in its own way. The world is bigger than your bubble. You have to be diverse and inclusive, or else you will lose business and will not be able to survive. Another company that is inclusive and diverse is going to take your business, and then that’s it. On the asking for help and support piece, that is another thing interns also need to do. Also, nonprofits need to allow to make safe: being able to ask for help. I am someone that has a hard problem with asking for help. That is because that is my own personality. I have been through so much in my life that I think I can do everything myself. Sometimes, I really do need help. It takes a lot out of me to ask for it, but it’s important that I ask. That helps me to make myself not only a better leader and a better follower.
Hugh: You don’t have a corner on that market by the way. That is the story for a lot of people. It’s saying we don’t have all the answers. Leaders have good questions, not all the answers. I want to highlight that point. Not only for interns, but for everybody. Ok, I am not going to go down this pathway and make mistakes and waste time and waste money. I am going to stop and say, I need to connect the dots. There is nothing shameful about that. That is good leadership.
Marc: Not everyone knows everything. No one is perfect. That’s ok. As much as we like to all think that we’re perfect, we’re not all perfect. It’s being okay with asking for help, or being okay with questioning things. If something doesn’t seem right or you don’t know something, it’s okay to ask about it. That’s how you learn. That’s how we all learn. We ask in school. We ask our parents. We ask our friends. We just ask. That’s how you learn and become better at both following and leading.
Hugh: Go figure.
Russell: You have the University of Lynchburg. SynerVision Leadership Foundation. I can hear a reverse mentorship program bubbling and brewing and being cooked up.
Marc: One of my ideas that I had, and I didn’t talk too much about it, was a think tank. Especially for companies and nonprofits in the region, or really anywhere, they could be able to come and learn new ideas, take new perspectives, just get an idea of what your business is. That’s a collaborative piece. You could get help with one part that you may not be good at, or one part you may not know. You could come to the university’s think tank or collaborative organization that is created, and be able to figure out that piece of it and deal with it effectively to make your organization better. It’s an idea. I like the idea that people have to do it and move toward it.
Hugh: We have to talk. It’s in process right under your nose. Russell, I’m hearing a thread here. We get too settled in our ways. It’s important to bring in somebody like a Marc, who is a student and will bring some fresh eyeballs and energy. The vision of diversity from his generation, we tend to segment us by generations when we really need to think about mixing things up because we bring lots of different perspectives to the workplace. Marc, you hit on a number of important topics today, none of which I guessed we would go to. The prevailing thing I’m hearing is interns bring in new energy, if the leaders let them do it. There are probably some leaders who say, “This is the way I want it.” You’re employed with the Alliance, so I would guess that’s not true.
Marc: I am a product of what it would look like if you maximized your intern’s value. I have already laid out who I am, what I’ve done, what I plan on doing, and what my thoughts are. I am a product of being able to allow your intern to maximize their value. My place in the Alliance is they are like another family. They are all amazing people. We laugh about things. We joke about things. We get mad at things at the same time. It’s okay. We are all safe, and we feel like we can actually talk to each other about these things. I have been able to go to them with issues or ideas I’ve had and try to figure them out. They’ve asked me what my thoughts are on things because I have been able to build that perspective and understand both sides of the argument, both the 501(c)6 side of the nonprofit and the college student side. I can understand both perspectives. They have allowed me to do things that I don’t think a lot of interns normally are able to do, like be able to build such an amazing program with so much freedom, be able to bring in a member with collaboration, be able to work on things. I have built a relationship with them, too. I help them set up rooms. I spent time on paperwork. I moved tables around to set up and lay out executive meetings. I set up committee meetings. I am able to attend Leadership Lynchburg events and sessions and get to learn through almost the same as Leadership Lynchburg. I am a product of what it is if you as the intern and the nonprofit actually collaborate and work with each other, you have maximized your value as an intern and as a nonprofit.
Hugh: I think you should write an e-book on how to maximize the intern experience, and you could do it from both sides because you know both sides. A lot of interns don’t think about what you just said. It comes back to you. You help them with other things. That is not on the list of things you have to do, but it’s how you build relationship to bring value.
Russell: It’s all about building something together. You have been open to something new at all times. You never know where that knowledge will come from. You have to be open and ask questions. I love the idea of reverse mentoring. Because we get set in our ways of thinking, in order to keep up with trends and thought processes as they evolve, we have to be taking in new information. It’s important to be open to that and to always keep those channels of communication open and to create that safe space, where everybody is honored because everybody has value. There are a lot of organizations that have genius on board that they are not leveraging. They haven’t really thought about taking the time to be open to look at what they are doing, to find out what we can do better. That’s what it’s all about. It’s all about growing. It’s all about taking the chances and getting better at what we do. Expanding, growing, working on ourselves, as well as our organizations.
Hugh: Always working. Jim Rohn used to say, “Work on yourself harder than you work on your business.” Our audience is nonprofit executive directors and clergy, so Marc, please give them a thought or a tip or a challenge in a minute.
*Sponsor message from 31 Days to Becoming a Better Leader*
What do you want to leave people with, Marc?
Marc: I want to leave them with a challenge and a quote from Winston Churchill. A quote that I want to give to the executive directors who are listening as well as the clergy people: Always challenge yourself with your interns, and challenge your interns because you can grow from that challenge. Being uncomfortable helps you move forward. Challenge yourself to learn from your intern, but also challenge your intern to think in a different way. Think critically. They are not getting a college degree just to get the degree. They are getting it because they want the experience and want a potential job. You can give that to them, but you also have to challenge them to understand the perspectives that are out there. How do you better yourself? How do you better your organization? How do you better them as a whole? At the end of the day, a rising tide lifts all boats. As long as we are all coming together, then we are all going to be able to make the changes to move forward.
A quote from Winston Churchill that I absolutely love. It was also on a TV show that I enjoy, but it was different. I am saying it in a more different term. “To improve is to change. To be perfect is to change often.” You have to change often as an organization, as a person, as yourself, as anyone in order to improve yourself and make yourself better as a whole.
Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to share my experience and my expertise on my different views and abilities on nonprofits and educational leadership.
Hugh: You’re welcome. Russell?
Russell: Thank you very much. This has been enlightening and uplifting. I am glad to see you are heavily engaged. I am looking forward to meeting lots of people like you, uplifting this sector and going out and making a difference for people here in the world. This is what for-purpose enterprises and operations are all about.