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My Experience as an ABT Intern

1 Jun

As the Membership Intern, I go into the office once a week to create acknowledgment letters. Because ABT is a non-profit, it is important that donors receive acknowledgment letters for tax purposes. I would start the process by pulling a query on Raiser’s Edge, the donor database, of the gifts from the last week. I would then separate the gifts into 6 separate categories, as there were 6 different types of acknowledgment letters. I would then put each letter into a membership packet and envelope.  

When I worked remotely, I would send emails from the Membership Inbox and work on the Change List. The emails I sent were to recurring members whose cards had been declined, to members who received a link to a ballet (like Swan Lake), or to members who received a LWFC photo with their second ask donation.  

In addition, I worked with the Special Events team. For this role, I did a lot of prospect research. This research varied for different events, such as the June Gala and Holiday Benefit. I looked at potential sponsors, venues, and ticket prices. I would compile this research into a spreadsheet and present my findings to the Events department.  

I thoroughly enjoyed my time as an intern at ABT and truly learned a lot from the experience.  

Madi Burack

Membership & Special Events Intern (Development)

Spring 2023

Contributing to ABT

1 Jun

Growing up, I always loved the idea of working within the performing arts industry and this dream only strengthened during the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent shutdown of live performances. While I have danced all my life, I never had the potential or desire to try and go professional however I always believed in the arts importance in our lives and I wanted to contribute to it. I connected with ABT immediately due to its mission of reaching the widest possible audience across the United States. Additionally, it also was the first professional ballet company I had seen perform even though I been dancing ballet since I was little. Therefore, when I saw ABT had available internships within a department I had previous experience with another nonprofit during my senior year at Fordham University, I knew I had to apply. This internship has not only accomplished a dream of supporting one of my favorite ballet companies, but was an incredibly rewarding and exciting experience.  

During my time at ABT, I worked on a variety of projects, supporting both the Major Gifts team and Donor Relations team, particularly with patron ticketing in the lead up to the 2023 MET season. Every day I would open my email and see what requests had come in, helping to keep track of them and complete their order forms to ensure every donor got the best tickets for them. I also helped with the long-term projects of preparing for this process, as I began in January, right in time to assist with the vital prep work for those requests. I loved to see the different shows that donors want to see and their excitement for the upcoming season. I also helped with prep work for credit in programs for shows, making sure every donor who needed credit received it. Working on these and therefore confronting how many people donate and care about this organization only cemented my belief in the importance of the arts. Working with Donor Relations proved a valuable experience because it showed the various ways that donors connect and interact with the organization.  

Meanwhile, I also worked with the Major Gifts team, helping the donating process for the higher-level donors. This included working on acknowledgement letters when people donated to make sure every person felt ABT’s immense appreciation for their donation. I also helped put together informational materials for donors, so they had all the relevant information when making their donations decisions and to stay up to date with the current events at ABT.  

ABT has exceeded and fulfilled a dream to work towards supporting the arts, even during the touring season without performances in New York. Seeing all the work that goes into making such an outstanding ballet company run and the amazing people that make it happen. Walking into the office and hearing the ballet music wafting through the hallway added the perfect touch to an amazing work day and internship.  

Katie Lewis

Major Gifts & Donor Relations Intern (Development)

Spring 2023

Membership Intern: A Day in the Life

15 Feb

Sitting in my dorm room at school, I log into Raiser’s Edge and start compiling and organizing data to begin the process of generating this week’s acknowledgement letters. I work quickly but thoroughly as I want to finish these acknowledgement letters before my zoom meeting at eleven a.m. I finish the acknowledgement letters just before eleven and join the zoom meeting with the rest of ABT’s Development Team. I listen in to hear new updates from the Major Gifts and Institutional Support Team and also receive a rundown of tonight’s gala schedule from the Special Events Team. The meeting closes out at noon and I join my second and last zoom meeting of the day. In this meeting I met with ABT’s Telefunding Team alongside Grey Johnson, ABT’s Director of Membership, and Tilmon Splawn, ABT’s Membership Assistant. This meeting is cut short as Grey, Tilmon, and I need to head to Lincoln Center for ABT’s Fall Gala.   

The call ends and I quickly put makeup on and change into my gala dress. I walk to the subway and head downtown to Lincoln Center. When I arrive, I am greeted by the rest of the development team and the other development interns. The head of Special Events gives us a tour of the gala venue and assigns each of us a specific role for the night. I was assigned door duty with two other interns. We were in charge of greeting guests and directing them to the gala check-in table. Additionally, we were supposed to help the guests with any miscellaneous questions they had. 

The night of the gala was a frenzy, but also one of the most spectacular professional experiences I have ever experienced. Not only was I able to watch the groundbreaking premiere of Christopher Rudd’s Lifted and see some of my favorite ABT dancers perform that I had admired since my early years of ballet training; but I was also able to play a part in one of ABT’s most important philanthropic events. The opportunity to work at ABT’s Fall 2022 Gala solidified my love for and reaffirmed my future career goal of working in development for a performing arts organization.  

This is just an example of one rewarding day out of many that I have experienced this past semester while working as ABT’s Membership Intern. Each day I have worked with ABT this past semester has been both fruitful and enriching. Whether it was learning about a new function in Raiser’s Edge, proofreading ABT newsletters, working the membership table, or deciding which articles to send to donors; each task or experience with ABT has strengthened my skills and allowed me to learn something new. I am so grateful for the opportunity to have interned with ABT’s Membership Department this past semester and am especially appreciative of Maureen Steinhorn, Tilmon Splawn, and Grey Johnson who served as my mentors. I had such a memorable experience and hope to be involved with ABT again in some capacity. 

Victoria Cunnane

Membership Intern (Development)

Fall 2022

Major Gifts Intern at ABT

15 Feb

Writing this, I have now been finished with my Major Gifts internship with American Ballet Theatre for 1 week. As I look back on my semester, I feel incredibly lucky for the immense amount of tutelage I received, the connections I was able to make, and the dream I was able to accomplish. For 15 years of my life, I was a serious ballet dancer, looking up to ABT and everything that the historic company has continued to stand for. Once I retired from the stage, I began studying Arts Administration at Butler University and after two other dance related internships, I applied and landed a spot in ABT’s internship program with Major Gifts. My internship experience was nothing short of worthwhile, allowing me to achieve a lifelong goal of working for a major ballet company.

Something unique about my experience is that I completed my internship fully virtual from my college campus in Indianapolis, Indiana. Nonetheless, my mentors and colleagues at ABT made my work environment so positive and I can’t imagine another opportunity where I learned as much as I did. I’ve learned that I feel fulfilled sharing my love of the arts with the community, making worthwhile connections with people who feel the same, and seeing the results of hard work firsthand. With this internship, specifically in Major Gifts, I have seen the hardworking nature of passionate staff and it inspired me for my future endeavors. My daily tasks included writing and drafting acknowledgement letters, conducting prospective donor research, organizing information on dancer sponsorships, among others. Also, attending weekly professional development meetings provided me with information on the other roles in the organization and their journeys to ABT.

One thing that I appreciated greatly was everyone’s eagerness to connect with the interns and aid them on their path to success. Each of the staff members that participated in the weekly professional development meetings made a point to share connection information and offered their assistance in any situation we might need. I also enjoyed attending weekly staff meetings and learning from likewise professionals in the industry. I was able to gain a plethora of valuable knowledge and see the functions of a growing dance non-profit organization.

Although my experience was different than most, I felt I still experienced the intended effect of working for such a historic organization. I loved working for an organization that I was passionate about and that I had a history of admiring. I feel very lucky to have made the connections that I did, to have learned from enthusiastic mentors like Josephine Smolsky and Anna Hessa, and to have worked at organization that where I feel proud to have been an intern.

Payton Field

Major Gifts Intern (Development)

Fall 2022

A Foundation in Foundations

15 Feb

As a dancer and arts administration student, I have dreamed about interning at American Ballet Theatre since I moved to New York. So after living in New York for a year, I was ecstatic to have the opportunity to join the development department this fall! With my experience in development mostly in individual giving, I wanted to branch out a bit to learn more about foundations through institutional giving. 

As the institutional support intern, I learned so much about the foundations that already support ABT’s mission. There are so many foundations in New York and the U.S. who believe in the power of the arts, which is very encouraging to find. While assisting with grant applications, I learned more about the wonderful work that ABT does every day – from the beautiful performances onstage at Lincoln Center, to the workshops that dancers lead with students in schools or in parks over the summer. While compiling information for grant applications, I got to read outstanding reviews of the work that ABT would perform that fall and on its upcoming tour, which made me even more excited to see the performances! It was enlightening to read about ABT’s initiatives and share them proudly with the foundations we are asking for support from. The hard work ABT does to bring ballet to New York and beyond makes it easy to write about why foundations should support it.  

When I was not researching and writing components of grants, I loved helping out at the membership table and the fall gala! At the membership table, so many donors and guests were excited to talk to me about the performance on stage or the many years they have been attending ABT performances. I love connecting with people about dance, so I appreciated the opportunity to both be able to write about dance as well as speak about it with attendees of the performances! I deeply valued the writing and research experience I gained as the institutional support intern this fall, as well as all of the beautiful ballet I got to see.  

Nadine Hemming

Institutional Support Intern (Development)

Fall 2022


15 Feb

Dance has always been my escape. A place to forget about the pressure of my competitive rhythmic gymnastics career and the daily struggles at my all-girls high school. Though I knew that I did not want to pursue dance professionally, I recognized that there was no future career path for me that did not include dance or the performing arts in my daily work in some capacity. The ABT Executive Office Development Assistant Internship was the perfect blend of my passion for dance and the business and special events side of the art form.   

In college, I studied economics and media studies, continuously trying to find a way to combine those two disciplines as I did not want to go down the strictly business or artistic routes. When the opportunity to receive the Arts Management and Leadership Certificate at my school arose, it felt as though all my prayers had been answered. Getting to take classes like Introduction to Arts Management, Survey of Accounting, Business Law, and Strategic Communication and Marketing for the Arts, I knew that for my capstone course I wanted an experience that gave me that real world hands-on experience that would allow me to take everything I learned in the classroom and apply it in the workplace.  

ABT was perfect in all these ways. As my first experience interning for such a large organization, I was thrown straight into a world that I had admired from the seat in the audience my whole life. Getting paired with the most caring and supportive mentor, every day was a new learning opportunity and chance for growth. From the smallest tasks like filling out ticket requests and donation forms to larger assignments like conducting prospect research and report preparation for special projects including the Fall Gala and Board Committee meetings, I was able to see what the day-to-day life working in development at a nonprofit performing arts organization looked like.  

I will always look back on this experience with gratitude and appreciation for the amazing community at ABT, who cared about each student’s professional development in addition to their daily tasks. Getting to hear from leaders in different roles all throughout the development team and ABT as a whole twice a week, was an incredible way to see what various paths within a career in the performing arts can look like and opened my eyes to where I want to go post-graduation and beyond.  

Jennifer Ayzman

Development Executive Office Intern (Development)

Fall 2022

An Eventful Semester!

15 Feb

As a last semester student moving to New York City and trying to find valuable experience, I was very nervous about finding a workplace that would give me as much as I was willing to give it. American Ballet Theatre did just this, and this wonderful semester has flown by quicker than I could have imagined.

During the semester, I have done a variety of tasks- big and small- that have taught me a great deal about special events in a nonprofit. No day looked quite the same as the special events intern. There were many ongoing tasks that I tackled, such as prospect research, donation acknowledgment letters, and sorting through the email inbox. However, I was also able to do so many tasks that prove how much goes into special events that you may not think of. For instance, on the day of the gala, me and my internship advisor glued cue cards for the speakers. Another interesting task I was part of was finding florists near the houses of our patrons so that we could deliver flowers to them as a ‘thank you’ after the gala. I would dare say these tasks are what taught me the most about special events. There is much more to this department than just planning two galas a year and hoping people will show up.

Along with these tasks, I also was able to sit in on zoom meetings weekly. Here, I begin to understand the importance of collaboration through the different segments of development. It was very interesting to see that in a company like ABT, all hands are on deck for anything where they need to be. It was also very inspiring to me to see how well ABT works as a team. I feel very lucky that, for a short period of time, I was able to be part of this team.

Working at ABT has been a really wonderful learning experience. It has shown me what interests me within development beyond special events, what a great work culture looks like, and lastly, what I am capable of. I was able to learn so much simply by my internship advisors trusting me to succeed. I am leaving ABT a more well-rounded and knowledgeable employee.

Chloe Cook

Special Events Intern (Development)

Fall 2022

The Right Opportunity at the Right Time 

23 Aug

Last spring I participated in an internship centered on development for a regional equity theatre company. I then desired to build upon the skills I developed there and apply them on a bigger scale at a larger performing arts non-profit. My background and love of dance coupled with ABT’s wide-reach and impressive engagement with national and international audiences led to the perfect fit. Additionally, making the move from my development experience to the specificity of a major gifts office seemed like a natural step in my growth in this development space.  

This was a very exciting summer to join the major gifts department. This summer season brought ABT’s return to the Metropolitan Opera House stage for the first time since the pandemic, and what a season it was. With five weeks and countless performances, it would be dishonest to say the complimentary ballet tickets and access to interfacing with ABT members and patrons wasn’t a highlight of the summer. Working on office work during the day and getting to come to the theatre at night was a delightful compliment. I found it uniquely special to see the result of all the work the ABT administrative and artistic teams put in day after day, year round.  

More specifically though, my role consisted of data-entry and organization, working the membership table during performances at the Met, and conducting prospective major donor research. Donor research helped the majors team identify potential candidates for solicitations of major gifts, but more often the process helped identify individuals the majors and development team desired to develop a closer relationship with. This was very interesting to me and represented my favorite administrative part of the job. I got to learn more about patrons through publicly available information and often discovered their ties to other arts organizations or philanthropic endeavors. These indicators often communicate to the majors team that a prospective donor may be a good fit based on their demonstrated interests or career.  

I also appreciated seeing how memberships with patrons and donors are cultivated and maintained. This happened in a more public facing space, at the membership table. Here I observed how ABT staff answered questions, communicated membership costs and bonuses, and handled customer service situations, such as ticket issues or other complaints. I also got to take part in this important public facing role myself and found it to be quite enjoyable.  

At the end of the summer I came away with my goals accomplished. I feel the experience I gained at ABT this summer researching prospective donors built on the skills I developed in my previous non-profit arts internships. Additionally, I gained important database experience—which is applicable at numerous organizations and in countless fields. I am very grateful I was selected with this amazing cohort of summer 2022 interns. Everyone I met was kind and motivated. I can only speak highly of the program and my supervisor. I have immense gratitude for the whole ABT team, each of the speakers who took the time to teach us, and our wonderful program directors!  

Nell Adkins

Major Gifts Intern (Development)

Summer 2022

Magical Moments at the Met: Membership Intern

22 Aug

What a summer! It has been incredible working with the Development Department during ABT’s return to the Met Opera House! From talking to audience members about the membership program to attending post-performance cocktail hours, it was incredible interacting with donors, who were all ABT fans just like me! 

As Membership Intern, I learned all about how donations are handled. Apart from my role this summer working at the Met Opera House, I created acknowledgment reports, where I sorted donation gifts and categorized them appropriately each week. Writing letters to donors and interacting with ABT members through emails has been exciting and taught me a lot about communication. My favorite part was getting to work at the membership table and attend donor events, where I saw how important maintaining donor relations were for generating enthusiasm. What better way to spend the summer than to watch and talk about ballet! 

Membership Table at the Met

I remember on my first day in the membership team meeting, Director of Membership, Grey Johnson made it clear that “no donation is small”. The amount of giving and generosity that is poured into ABT is inspirational and makes me eager to support the arts in any way I can in the future. Thank you to everyone in the development department for letting me see what it takes to grow ABT’s mission!  

Veronica Greydak  

Membership Intern (Development)

Summer 2022 

New Perspectives

22 Aug

Growing up as a violinist, the closest interaction I had with ballet was playing in the orchestra pit, barely seeing the dancers above me. As an arts administration student, I had only just scratched the surface of what it means to be in a development department through class and one other previous internship. My time at ABT gave me new perspectives on both the ballet world and development work. 

One of the best perks of being an ABT intern is obviously the chance to see each performance. Though I have very little understanding of dance still, I was fascinated by the beautiful dancers and the precision with which they moved. It was also fun to see how the music I was so familiar with was interpreted on stage. My favorite performance was of Swan Lake with Gillian Murphy. Moreover, I gained a fuller picture on why people loved the ballet so much and why they wanted to donate to this cause.  

I learned even more about how and why people give through my work in Patron Services. Because Patron Services works with every department of Development, I was able to learn from so many people, especially those in Major Gifts and Membership. Seeing my colleagues speak to and about donors and having a wealth of knowledge about their preferences was so interesting; they knew which program might excite which donor and who loved which dancer as if they were friends. The experience really reinforced the idea of development being relationship building. 

Though I was often learning on the spot, my supervisor Lauren did an excellent job guiding me through tasks that were time-sensitive and demanded accuracy. She was kind, encouraging, and showed me not only what good teamwork looks like, but also how I want to treat others should I have people working under me in the future. I hope every ABT intern has a supervisor as amazing as her! 

I am so grateful for my time at ABT. I learned so much, got to see amazing performances and meet equally amazing people. Thank you so much Lauren, Devo team, and ABT for an awesome summer! 

Monet Takeda  

Patron Services Intern (Development)

Summer 2022