Summer Internship at the Auditorium

Article by David Silverstein,  a graduate student in the MAAA program at SPEA. Over the summer, David served as a Development Intern for IU Auditorium through the Indiana University Foundation internship program. Currently, he works as a Graduate Assistant at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater and as a Teaching Assistant for Legal Issues in the Arts. 

Over the summer I was a Development Intern for the IU Foundation working specifically at IU Auditorium. While there I worked under the director of development, Heather Dies, to leverage student giving for the IU Auditorium Alumni Association (IUAAA), a student- alumni organization created to support student workers at the Auditorium. This internship was a highly unique opportunity and I recommend it for any MAAA student with an interest in development.

Before coming to IU I had completed two separate development internships at Lyric Opera of Chicago and Seattle Opera during the summers of 2015 and 2016 respectively. Originally from a classical performance background, I was completely unaware of what development was for most of my life college career. I knew my grandparents were donors to the opera, but I never really thought about the process of fundraising before my first internship. Immediately I was interested in continuing this work as it was a way for me to work directly in the arts and, more importantly, connect with other people who are equally invested in it.

While searching through the SPEACareers website over winter break I stumbled upon the internship opening and after a few clicks, I submitted my application! After a couple weeks of research, a skype interview, and a conversation with a previous MAAA student who completed the same internship I was invited for a final in-person interview.

Before the final interview, I was sent a roster of different sites that I could possibly work in, among them were development positions at IU Auditorium, the School of Education, the School of Science at IUPUI, IU Eskenazi Museum of Art. There were also specific positions within the foundation including human resources, the investment department, and the parent engagement department. This internship is unique cooperation between the foundation and Indiana University and the roster gave me the chance to learn more about the specific goals each site had in mind so that I could come up with a list of my top two or three places where I might like to work.

During the interview, I had the ability to get to know who would be my potential supervisor and their objectives they would have me complete over the summer. It was here where I became pulled towards IU Auditorium and Heather’s plan to create a crowdfund campaign for student alumni giving. Additionally during the interview, I learned about the duality of the internship program. While you will spend most of your time at your respective site, you also attend professional development opportunities sponsored by the foundation including attending the summer board meeting in Indianapolis, a fundraising course taught by the Lilly School of Philanthropy, an etiquette dinner, and much more.

I was incredibly fortunate to be selected as an intern and placed in my top choice at the auditorium. After a few days of orientation at the foundation, we set out to our respective locations and I was able to create a plan over the course of 12 weeks for a crowdfunding campaign lasting from the first day of classes until Giving Tuesday (shameless plug if you want to check it out: Although it began slowly as there was some staff turnover and the summer is normally the off-season for performing arts organizations, we began to pick up steam after the second half of the summer.

In terms of learning opportunities, there is never a shortage. Just by working within a top-tier presenting organization I was able to experience best practices first hand, absorbing all of the information that I could. More importantly, I was able to apply my knowledge from my classes (especially Fund Development for Nonprofits) directly to my work. Sitting in and sometimes leading conference calls with the IUAAA board taught me how to interact with board members and motivate them to do work that aligns with their strengths. By going on donor meetings, I experienced the process of cultivating donors first-hand and was able to make an ask from prospective donors.

Overall I highly recommend this internship, even if you are not specifically interested in university-level development. The foundation is a wonderful resource to IU and gave me invaluable skills I can take into the workplace this winter.


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