How do you get an internship helping a non-profit promote its mission?

Learn how Brianna LaMar is helping the a community organization communicate its mission as a “lifeblood” of support to its communities.

LaMar, a first-generation college student, has worked in the Office of the Vice President and has been a recipient of multiple scholarships, including the Doris& Victor Day Foundation Undergraduate Scholarship, in addition to entering the honors program at WIU-QC. Learn more about her experience, and advice, below.

young woman with blonde hair and purple shirt poses for portrait in front of blood-drop logo

Lamar, a Communication major from Coal Valley, IL, poses at the reception area at her internship site.


1. What is your internship title, and where do you work? When did you start? Do you have an end date?
My title is Marketing and Donor Promotions Intern at the Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center. I started in early October 2018, and it ends May 2019, upon receiving my Bachelors in Communication Studies at Western Illinois University-Quad Cities.

2. How does your internship relate to your major or classes?
I use many aspects of my major and the knowledge from my classes every day. One that I use most is Computer Mediated Communication. Because I rely heavily on computers to connect with our donor bases through social media, this class has helped me when connecting with others and understanding communication processes through various online platforms. Others I’ve found beneficial in my daily work are my Persuasion and Persuasive Campaign classes. I’m able to use my knowledge of effective campaign designs when assisting with different donor promotions and marketing campaigns to persuade others. But I think the most important class I’ve taken so far is Interpersonal Communication, because I’m the skills and strategies I’ve learned when I communicate every day on the job with our diverse group of donors and MVRBC staff members.

3. How did you hear about the opportunity?
I came across the ad for the position on I thought it was a great opportunity: to take the knowledge and skills I learned in class and get a head start on a career, possibility using my Communication degree!

4. Can you summarize the process you went through to apply for, and receive, the internship?
I filled out an online application through the company’s website. I first had a phone interview with an HR recruitment coordinator. She asked me about my knowledge of the organization, why I was interested in the position, and I briefly went over my work history. I was then scheduled for an in-person interview with who would become my bosses (Emily, Donor Promotions and Communications Supervisor, and Lori, Community Relations Coordinator). At this interview, I was able to go in depth about my experiences and past positions and showcase some of my past work that qualified me for the intern position. A few days later I received a phone call from the company’s human resources department offering me the position, and I accepted!

Two young women working together over a small laptop.

LaMar receives guidance on a project Emily Roebuck, Donor Promotions and Communications Supervisor at MVRBC headquarters in Davenport, IA.

5. How did you feel on the first day?
I was really curious and excited my first day. I had such a warm welcome, and many of my co-workers introduced themselves and told me how happy they were that I was there. It was nice to feel appreciated. I was eager to learn more about the organization in general and the operation side of things. And I was excited that I was now apart of MVRBC’s leading effort in helping provide blood products to our local communities and enhance the lives of others.

6. What are some of your duties and responsibilities? How do they fit into the bigger picture at the organization?
I have many duties and responsibilities in my position that keep me busy all day long. Two of the most important duties I have include assisting with our Donor for Life program and our Impact Rewards Loyalty Store. Both of these programs celebrate the commitment and dedication of our donors. With each donation given, donors receive automatic points that they can spend on cool blood-center merchandise. We also have select times when we have free promotional items that our donors qualify for. My job is to assist and make sure all of these orders are fulfilled. Other duties include monitoring our social media channels. I assist in making sure we’re getting the word out about current promotions and events our donors can participate in, and I engage with our followers on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat. This includes creating promotional pieces used for advertising these promotions and events, and sending this information to our donor centers.

7. What is the most important skill or task you’re learning at the internship?
The most recent skill I’ve learned is how to create Snapchat geofilters using Canva. I was familiar with the Canva software before working on this task but I didn’t know it could be used for Snapchat! It definitely allows me to use my creativity and add something personal to the geofilters that are used for the special blood drives we run.

8, What’s your favorite thing about the internship?
My favorite thing about my internship is I know the organization makes a huge impact on people’s lives every day. It’s a great feeling to know that you work for an organization whose mission is to serve its communities and help people stay healthy.

9. What’s one thing that has surprised you about it?
I think the thing that has surprised me the most is the amount of donors we have and how big of an impact we have on others. Currently, MVRBC partners with hospitals across Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, and Wisconsin to carry out its mission. We’re able to serve more than 4 million residents in our region thanks to our donors’ contributions. That is a huge! And really fascinating to think about the impact our blood products have on many lives.

10. Would you like work for this company, or in this type of job, after graduation? If so, do you feel this internship might help you stand out as a full-time applicant?
I knew when I transferred into Western Illinois University-Quad Cities that I wanted a degree that would give me the flexibility to learn a variety of skills and strategies to help people and make a change in society. I’m thankful that I’ve learned so much from this internship in a short amount of time.

I’m looking forward to the months to come with this organization. The ability to help others and make an impact is such a rewarding feeling. However, my future plans for this coming fall are to continue my education at WIU by enrolling in the College Student Personnel program, and hopefully becoming a career counselor or academic advisor to help students like myself get the most out of their college experience.

11. What advice would you give to someone in your major who might be looking for this same type of opportunity?
My advice would be to use the resources you have available to you on campus. Make connections with your professors and the Career Development Center. They will help prepare you to land a great opportunity while studying in your program of choice. If you want something, go after it. Make yourself unforgettable and showcase your greatest strengths and talents that can land you an internship beneficial to you and your future career ambitions.


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