Mary Phillips ’11 Jumps into the Non-Profit World

Mary Phillips '11
Mary Phillips '11
All over the world, women fight for their rights. In Iraq they speak out for women raped and murdered by their husbands, in Colombia they fight to help heal the damage caused by exploiting child soldiers. Everywhere there is injustice, organizations form to support these wronged individuals. Working with MADRE in New York City, Mary Phillips ’11 is learning the business side of a non-profit.

MADRE is, in a way, the mother of all non-profits. It aims to take immediate, concrete action to advance women’s human rights. It collects donations from individuals as well as different private foundations. MADRE has affiliate organizations in 12 countries in the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America, to which it sends the donations it receives.

But, as Phillips is learning, MADRE must meet the specific qualifications set forth by each foundation before it can receive donations. After spending the past two summers on the programming side of various other non-profits (including Hamilton’s own Community Outreach and Opportunity Project), Phillips is interning in the development department of MADRE.

One of her primary duties there is identifying foundations that could potentially donate to MADRE, which means finding those that “fit.” She identifies foundations that have interests in international, grassroots women's organizations—a process called “prospecting.” As a part of her research she then pours over their tax records to see the organizations to which the foundation has donated in the past. If the foundation seems likely to want to donate to MADRE, Phillips adds it to an extensive spreadsheet of potential donors. Researchers at MADRE then look into it more deeply and, if it still seems promising, MADRE sends a Letter of Inquiry to see if the foundation might be interested in hearing more about our work, often with a focus on one program in one particular country.

Phillips has also learned how in-depth this database of donors truly is. “I have learned a lot about MADRE's system for tracking donors; there are extensive records on all correspondence kept with donors, how much they've given and how often they've given,” Phillips said. Personal communication is a central component to a successful non-profit, even one with a budget as large as that of MADRE; “I'm always sending out thank-you cards and my supervisor spends a lot of time on the phone or e-mailing with foundation program directors and individual contributors,” Phillips said. “A lot of the job is building a relationship between the organization and the funder so that people feel confident about giving.”

A comparative literature major, Phillips said she “wanted to put her writing skills to the test” in taking on this internship, specifically in learning how to write grants. She plans to continue working with non-profit organizations after she graduates from Hamilton and is confident that her work with MADRE this summer will make her “irresistible” to potential employers.

Phillips’ internship is funded by Hamilton’s Joseph F. Anderson ’44 Internship Fund. The fund provides stipends to support full-time internships for students wishing to take on not-for-profit internships in preparation for potential careers after graduation. A student in any proposed or declared area of concentration may apply for the award.

Phillips is a graduate of Jamesville-Dewitt High School in Dewitt, N.Y.
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