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Adapt, Explore, Say “Yes”!: An Interview With Sara Conklin

Adapt, Explore, Say “Yes”!: An Interview with Sara Conklin

The other day, I had the distinct pleasure of sitting down with a fellow WISH alumni, Sara Conklin.  Sara was an intern living in WISH housing a few years ago, and now, she works for a wonderful nonprofit in the development department.

Where did you interview in DC?

I was the Executive intern for the Human Rights Campaign, full time, for a whole semester. Basically my job was to assist the President and prepare our Board of Directors for their October meeting.  I started right after I graduated from Stanford and about halfway through my internship I was promoted.

Where do you work now?

Now, I’m the development coordinator at SMYAL (pronounced like “smile!”).  It’s funny, because I work in Eastern Market a few blocks away from my old WISH house!

“SMYAL” stands for Supporting, Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders, and it specifically exists to be a safe space for LGBT youth, roughly between the ages of thirteen and twenty one. We do a lot of social programming and after school activities that encourage leadership and advocacy.

My job is mostly grant work and fundraising. When you do development for a nonprofit, your biggest job is finding ways to reignite your donor base every year, along with finding new ways to reach out to the people who keep your doors open.

Do you have a single lesson or piece of advice you got from your internship?

Yeah, what I lie to tell people who are interning is that you’re never too big for any job.  Really, no matter where you are on the totem pole, sometimes you’re stuffing envelopes and that’s fine.  You’re part of a bigger community, and it’ll be more fun and exciting if you say “yes” to as many things as possible.

What do you wish you’d done more of during your internship?

You know, I got really close with the people in my WISH house and at my internship, but I wish I’d reached out to more people who’d had other internships.

If a young person wanted a job just like yours, what advice would you give them?

So if you want a job just like mine, you want a job running the backstage of a nonprofit, and I think those positions are exciting.

You have to be creative and adaptable and you have to be ready to absorb your community – be a sponge. You need to be willing to explore.

Development is consistently changing.  You always have to assess how to reconnect with your donors because without individual contributions your organization wouldn’t exist.

Value everything, think outside the box and pay attention to what might be a major opportunity.



Thanks again for your time and insight, Sara.  And good luck on your important work with SMYAL!

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