How I found my passion for nonprofit as an intern

By Emma McDowell, senior, public relations

The summer of 2021 came with a mass return to office work, which means a return to in-person internships. For the summer, I was lucky enough to work for LifeServe Blood Center as a public relations intern. LifeServe is the sole provider of blood products to over 120 hospitals in Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota. After accepting the internship, I couldn’t wait to join their life-saving mission.

Their PR/marketing team worked with me to figure out what I wanted to get out of this internship for me to get the best experience I could. This flexibility allowed me to see all sides of their PR department. From social media marketing, donor gifts and event setup, there was a little bit of everything for me to try. I never knew how much goes into a successful blood drive.

Throughout the summer, we hosted a variety of blood drives with local partners. One of their largest blood drives of the year is Blood Donor Day. For this drive, I created social media content to generate engagement and helped the day of the event by handing out giveaways to donors. Each drive showed me the importance of PR in getting people in the donor chairs. It also showed me that people would do anything for a free t-shirt.

My favorite projects I worked on were promotional videos for major blood drives. For one video, I quizzed firefighters and EMS personnel on blood donation trivia. Seeing these video projects from beginning to end was extremely satisfying. Translating a video idea in my head into an actual product felt like a major accomplishment. Video editing courses through Greenlee prepared me for the entire video production process.

This internship taught me how to be adaptable. Every day a new task awaited me, and I approached everything as a learning opportunity and enthusiastically dove in headfirst. Greenlee gave me a solid foundation to start the internship confidently, and LifeServe continued that education with valuable hands-on experience.

Most importantly, this internship reaffirmed my goal of wanting to work in the nonprofit world. Talking to blood donors and blood recipients allowed me to feel pride in the work I did. During my last week at LifeServe, I finally got the courage to try blood donation despite my fear of needles. Donating felt like it was truly important and impactful. Post-graduation, I hope to find a nonprofit whose mission I fully believe in and want to help support.

Because of the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication 499A internship scholarship, I didn’t have to worry about money while working an unpaid internship. Being able to dedicate my full time to LifeServe allowed me to get the most out of the internship. I’m incredibly thankful for receiving this scholarship.

Editor’s note: Edited for length and clarity. Greenlee 499A internship scholarships support students who have a primary major in advertising, journalism and mass communication or public relations and are completing their required 400-hour internships. The application is available each spring.