I work for a nonprofit interest group that takes political action to achieve their goal: aleviating global poverty. The Borgen Project has two major functions. One, which is made up of interns and volunteers, work to connect people to their representatives in an effort to make the people’s voices heard. They also introduce legislative acts that correlate with the organization’s mission: to ease the circumstances of people living in poverty.
The second branch of the organization is held by lobbyists and organization officials between Washington, D.C. and the organization’s headquarters in Washington state. These people rely on relationships and general interest (accrued or introduced by the former branch) to make sure bills and legislation is made law, or that budgets are funded, or that funding goes toward one issue or another. Thus, the organization is made up of political affairs, PR/marketing, journalists, and administrators.
My weeks as a PR/Marketing intern is organized in tidy checklists. Each week, I look to my PR Google Document, which both myself and my team manager have access to, and I complete each task one at a time. When I finish them, I simple cross them off and type up a quick summary of the action. The simplicity of this routine is helpful to me for a couple of reasons. First, it is easy for me to stay on track when I can preview each of my tasks and goals week to week. Secondly, attatched to each task is an explanitory description and, usually, examples and photos of previous interns completed tasks.
Each week, I begin by calling my two Chicago senators, Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin, plus my representative here in the 4th district, Mike Quigley. By now, I know their phone numbers by heart. My phone call has become a weekly ritual and the interns working at the congressional offices expect my call on Fridays. When they answer, I greet them by name and tell them the reason for my call: I am asking the senator or representative to support one bill or another. The Borgen Project pushes bills that grant aid or attention to populations in poverty. Currently, we’re pushing a bill that would give money to schools and academic establishments with the goal of making education and autonomy to girls in poverned nations.
This week was a social week. I implimented a “Mile Campaign” where I spent the day walking across a mile radious of DePaul’s Lincoln Park campus and spoke with passerbys about The Borgen Project and all they aim to do. It was an interesting change of pace to be able to get offline and away from the social media approach of mobilization and instead mobilize on foot.
I walked around campus, in front of the Student Center, in front of Whole Foods, through the Arts & Letters building talking to the few students here and there who were willing to look up at their phones and were intruiged by my attempt to talk to anybody who would lock eyes with me. Over the day, I chatted with a few students about their experiences communicating with their representatives and telling others about their Chicago representatives. A few had a sense of Congress’s role in legislation but few of them considered their congressmen as the best person to report their concerns to, many of them feeling like it would be a waste of time.
The Mile Campaign was a great way to spread The Borgen Project’s name to students. As a relatively small nonprofit, the organization suffers from lack of exposure. This is where PR/Marketing interns come in, with their main objective being exposure and acknowledgement in certain communities. Currently, The Borgen Project is most known by civil rights organizations that organize at a national level, but are not very known amongst people who could be utelizing their services and tools to communicate with their congressment.
Over the course of my internship, I’ve learned a lot about the value of organization recognition and awareness. Specifically, I’ve reconized that much of marketing is about making an organization or product visable and recognizable to people who are interested. Those who are not previously interested in a cause or have a need for some product may never be persuaded. Yet, when marketed towards the right audiance, which in my case was students and local activists, my organization’s message can grab the attention of supporters and futhermore will be passed on within the community.