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You Can Write Grants From Anywhere- A Virtual Internship at ABT

28 Jul

I applied for the ABT summer internship on a whim in February 2020, not knowing that COVID-19 would cause a mass shutdown canceling ABT’s Met Season, closing 890, and making internships virtual. In the Spring I was not only auditioning, but I was also looking for jobs that were more behind the scenes of performing arts for the first time. Armed with my Journalism degree and experience writing grants and press for very small ballet companies, I applied for any job or internship I could find in the city.

That being said, I was very surprised when the Institutional Support department at ABT called me in for an interview. I was even more surprised when I received the email saying I got the Institutional Support internship. Unfortunately, with the uncertainty of COVID and when ABT can return to 890, the summer internship was entirely virtual. Am I disappointed that I could not work at 890 and see the backstage of the Met Opera House during my internship? Of course! However, I wanted to work with and learn from the development department at ABT no matter what format.

Prior to starting my internship, I was told that the best time to learn how to fundraise is during a crisis. Because after that, fundraising feels easy. I started my ABT internship with that exact mentality.

I hit the ground running when I started my internship. During the first week, I drafted a grant application, created a grant interim report, and wrote an acknowledgment letter. I was amazed that Ebonie Pittman, Associate Director of Institutional Support, and Nicholas Denninger, Institutional Support Associate, trusted me with that much responsibility right off the bat. I cannot thank Ebonie and Nick enough for spending time to teach me more about the grant writing process, and how to create a compelling grant narrative.

With the nature of writing grants, I had the chance to interact with many departments at ABT. I worked with everyone in development to create ABT’s SMU’s DataArts profile, which is required for NYC Department of Cultural Affairs grant applications. I interacted with the education department to create grants and grant reports to support ABT at School, ABT’s residency program in NYC public schools. I am in awe of Richard Toda, Dennis Walters, and everyone in Education with how they are bringing ballet to students across the city.

By the end of my internship, I’ve completed two grant applications, two interim reports, many acknowledgement letters, the development part of DataArts, and learned how to utilize Raiser’s Edge and Raiser’s Edge NXT.

Jon Haddorff, Associate Director of Major Gifts best described the internship program. “ABT is like a teaching hospital. Like the interns in residency, we give our interns hands on experience.” This internship has solidified my new career goals of working in a development department in a performing arts organization, ideally a ballet company. Thank you ABT for giving me this opportunity to start my new career path.

Jessica Frazier

Institutional Support Intern

Summer 2020

Spring at ABT

22 May

I came from Chicago to New York City specifically to work with ABT in the spring semester. I go to school at home so while I was nervous to leave, I was more than excited to be an intern at a company I had admired since the earliest days of my dance endeavors. I had trained with ABT in the summer several years ago before I quit ballet to attend college, and I was so excited to return in a position I had really grown to love and to experience the company from a different lens. After several weeks of re-learning the ropes of another city, I had really gotten the hang of navigating my commute and felt a lot more comfortable in the office. Just as I started to transition into genuinely feeling like part of the office as well as understanding the general steps needed in writing grant applications, there was talk of COVID cases rising in the state. At first everyone was calm, with the standard “it’s just like the flu” statement that everyone in the country was experiencing, but after about a week of a consistent rise in concern about the safety of everyone’s health slowly consuming the hope that things won’t get as bad as they say, I found myself booking an emergency flight back home in fear of the city shutting down and being stuck without my family. I, along with most of the staff, assumed we would all be returning in a couple weeks at the most, but after each day it became more and more unlikely that would happen. So, we made the best of it! While the majority of my internship was remote, I still gained so much experience and learned so much about the non-profit arts world. One of my most special memories was watching the Virtual Gala, as it really made me feel so special to be part of such an amazing company, even though my time with them was cut short. It made me cherish the little time I spent even more.

Kayla Taylor

Institutional Support Intern

Spring 2020


A Time of Growth

11 Nov

When I began my Institutional Support internship at American Ballet Theatre, I had no idea what to expect. I had at first been unsure whether this internship was right for me, having little experience in development or ballet, but accepted based on my interest in the company and how much I liked my interviewer, Ebonie, the Associate Director of Institutional Support and Special Campaigns. More than halfway through the internship, I can now say that accepting the position was one of the best choices I have ever made.

From the moment I started at ABT, I felt like part of the development team. On my second day, Ebonie asked me to begin working on three grant proposals, including one for $250,000. I was shocked that she had entrusted me with such a significant task. It has been so refreshing to receive actual responsibility as an intern, since I know this is not always the case. My internship at ABT has allowed me to connect with people across the organization and extended my learning beyond just institutional support. I worked special events, spoken one-on-one with a Marketing Manager, and learn from ABT staff and board members at our weekly intern meetings.

I have learned so much from my participation in this internship, from how to write grants and acknowledgement letters, to how to do prospect research, and the importance of always being prepared to take advantage of networking opportunities, especially in the development field. I attended an ABT at School performance, expecting the event to be casual given that it was being held at a school. Consequently, I wore jeans and a jean jacket (also known as a Canadian tuxedo). I was surprised to see that the ABT staff in attendance were dressed in business clothing. After the performance, my supervisor introduced me to a number of people involved with the outreach program and I was invited to lunch. Partially mortified by my clothing choice and disappointed that I had made plans for after the event, I turned down the offer. This was a significant teaching moment, as I learned the importance of maintaining professionalism and leaving time for unexpected networking on any occasion. I am grateful I experienced this as an intern, as this lesson will be exceptionally useful as I begin my professional career.

Overall, my experience at ABT has been wonderful. I look forward to going into work twice a week, knowing that I will always learn something new and make meaningful contributions to my department. I am incredibly thankful to Ebonie, the development department, and everyone involved in the internship program for giving me such a wonderful experience. ABT has turned this theatre kid into a ballet fan, and I guarantee I will be attending a lot more ballet from here on in.

Liza Hersh

Institutional Support Intern

Fall 2019

NYC Crash Course

8 Dec

This week marks my last week as an intern in ABT’s Institutional Support Department. I am still looking forward to the last weekly meeting with Dennis Walters who is the Associate Director of Education and Training and the other interns, as well as ABT’s Executive Director, Kara Barnett. I will also close out this experience with an 80’s themed Holiday party this Friday!

Coming from my hometown of Arlington, TX to New York City for three months for this internship has been a crash course to say the least; a crash course in NYC living, non-profit organizations, and professional life as a whole. My supervisor Ebonie Pittman, the Associate Director of Institutional Support and Special Campaigns, has introduced me to the opportunity of supporting this over 40 million dollar organization by soliciting donations and grants through formal requests and networking. It is empowering to fundraise for a non-profit with a mission that aligns with mine, sharing the both historic and progressive aspects of dance and fine arts to a broad audience, especially those who may not otherwise have had access to it. (Shoutout to Project Plié, ABT’s diversity initiative.) I am looking forward to transferring the skills I’ve gained to future opportunities and hopefully being able to help financially support myself and my peers who are starting small dance companies and arts organizations with impactful missions.

I have a deep love for travel and did not expect such a cultural shock by moving to NYC this fall. Throughout my recent four years at Howard University, I became familiar with public transportation by living in Washington, DC and studying abroad in Paris, France for a semester in 2016. However, the New York City Metro is a whole different beast. The fast pace of everything and the high volume of people (and dogs in sweaters) was more than I could expect, but I love the fact that there is always something to do in the city that truly never sleeps. I can always catch a late night train or dance class. There is always something new to experience and someone new to meet.

Working in an office like ABT has shown me how fun professional life could be. While I’ve grown up as an aspiring dancer thinking being a professional in an office environment would be boring and draining, I have learned this fall about the potential that working in the right office environment can give. Taking on new projects, challenging oneself, helping create and facilitate exciting events, working with a determined team toward a common goal, and seeing the direct impact of positive work makes me eager to find my next professional opportunity. (My new requirement = a dog-friendly office) I also got to see all the work that goes behind the scenes of creative endeavors like dance companies from the important team that finds the funding for tours and galas to the teams that ensure that an audience will show up through marketing and membership. There as so many individuals working their hardest to ensure that Misty Copeland can fouetté on stages in Hong Kong or Detroit.

After three months in New York City, I am ready to return to the notably slower paced Dallas-Fort Worth area to celebrate the holidays and prepare for my next endeavor. This NYC crash course has prepared me for whatever my next step is, whether it is continuing to build my dance career, finding a new city to explore, using my new skills to support my entrepreneurial goals, helping another mission oriented organization in a creative office environment, or hopefully a good mix of everything. I am grateful to have gotten to experience New York and ABT over the past few months. From watching World Premieres from this year’s fall season shows to meeting the principal dancers and every staff member, it has been a wonderful experience. I am glad I’ve been able to use my love for dance and writing to support ABT for this short period of time!

Reya Roussel

Institutional Support Intern

Fall 2018


Late Start to a Great Week

19 Dec

At the beginning of the program I was excited to start the internship, learn about institutional support and more about ABT. My supervisor, Ebonie, described the projects I’d work on once I started which generated more excitement. But then she dropped a bomb. She told me she would have to go in for jury duty but hoped she wouldn’t get picked. However, the odds weren’t in my favor. This meant my start date would be pushed back another week. I was saddened by the news but I knew it was out of her control.

After the late start, I was ready to jump right in and that’s exactly what happened. On my first day I drafted proposals for foundations, attended a developmental staff meeting and met Misty Copeland. To say the least, my first day was pretty remarkable. During my first week, I began working on a major grant application for the Shubert Foundation. I couldn’t believe Ebonie trusted me to carry out this important task. Her confidence in me boosted my own confidence, because I was apprehensive to work on something important in a new field.

While working on the Shubert Foundation grant application, my assumptions of ABT being just a classical ballet company changed. I learned about their Project Plié initiative, educational outreach programs, touring and the Women’s Choreographers Initiative. Their efforts to stay true to their mission and provide dance to the widest possible audience is genuine. I also appreciated their efforts to not only provide opportunities to dancers but also to teachers and arts administrators. ABT is consistently trying to expand and adapt to the needs of their community.

My first week jumpstarted an inspiring internship and a passion for arts administration. While working at ABT I was able to assist with the Fall Gala, attend performances, sit in on rehearsals, meet donors and attend an in-studio performance. In just 4 months I was able to learn the ins and outs of ABT. Well some ins and outs, as I’m sure there is much more to learn.

Makeda Griffith

Institutional Support Intern

Fall 2017

Developing Valuable Skills in the Development Department

31 Jul

This past spring, I got to spend time interning in the Development Department at ABT. I worked in Institutional Giving and I got to learn a lot of valuable things about arts administration as a whole and how to develop relationships within the field.

I feel extremely lucky to have had this experience, especially as it was during my last semester in college. The internship program at ABT is unique because they really strive to give you an overview of arts administration as a whole. The intern meetings were fantastic because we got to speak with people who were working in a variety of different  departments and hear about their day to day tasks, the rewards and challenges of their jobs, and what made them so passionate about their work. It was fantastic to see how the departments worked together and the intern meetings gave me a great overview of the field and all of the different ways that people can contribute.

Additionally, I felt very lucky to have a mentor who was incredibly supportive. She was patient and took the time to check in throughout the semester to make sure that I was getting the most out of my experience. She walked me through the process of applying for grants and I got to learn a lot about building and maintaining relationships with different foundations and companies. She also invited me to sit in on important calls and walked me through the complete process of grant applications, from finding grants to writing applications and even the steps that you have to take to follow up and cultivate that professional relationship. All the while, she patiently addressed my questions and concerns and even set up meetings with people in other departments to make sure that I had a comprehensive understanding of ABT and the work that they do.

I feel extremely lucky to have worked with such a talented and passionate groups of people. The environment at ABT was always welcoming and everyone there is really focused on working together. I think that one of the most important things I learned was how people bring different skills and resources to a project and how to be a valuable member of a team. As an intern, I was given tasks that really contributed to the company and its mission. I was also invited to sit in on many discussions and meetings and, as a result, I can truly say that I walked away with much more knowledge about arts administration and the feeling that I got to make a small contribution to something truly incredible.

Niara Walden

Institutional Giving Intern

Spring 2017

A Learning Opportunity

22 Jan

“Why don’t you pull up your chair. This is a good teaching moment.” Many times this semester my mentor would ask me to do just that, and so time and time again I would pull up my chair next to her desk. These are the moments that truly make ABT a unique place to intern. Interns at ABT are part of the Educational program. Not a distraction but a valued investment.

Coming from a liberal arts background, finance or budgets were not really my strong suite. But perhaps the opportunity to intern in ABT’s Institutional Support Department excited me precisely because of the challenge it presented. I knew I could learn, because I knew I’d be taught.

I always had a lot of questions. But my mentor was extremely patient and more than willing to answer them. She spent time explaining the details of raising institutional support: what the application process for the different foundations looks like and how diverse the requirements can be, what the best ways to organize and document files are, what the nuances of interactions with representatives of foundations or corporations are, how project budgets are created, how to write reports, and so much more. But not only did I have the opportunity to learn about Institutional Support, I also got a glimpse into the Development, Artistic, Production Departments, and the Company as a whole. I knew that after graduating I want to be working in arts administration, but more and more I’m coming to understand how broad of a term it really is. ABT gave me the opportunity to explore and learn about the field not limiting me only to one aspect.

Looking back at my four months as an intern in the Institutional Support Department, I am blown away by how much I have had the chance to learn: what is a W990 form, how to make project budgets, how to write grants, and do prospect research. Things that only a couple of month ago existed vaguely in my imagination have now become concrete concepts I am ready to talk about and work on. The hands on experience and actively being able to apply the knowledge to a real life situation right after sitting by my mentor’s desk and learning about it make the ABT Internship Program truly unique.

Alisa Goz

Institutional Support

Fall 2016

Deciphering the Form 990

11 May

When one thinks of ABT, finance is not necessarily the first thing that comes to mind. It is a world away from the stage, the perfectly poised dancers, and the glitz and glamour of galas frequented by those talked about in The New York Times. And yet, it is a crucial part of operating America’s National Ballet Company®, indeed any organization. Like the support beams that beautiful Venetian houses sit on alongside the canals, if forgotten, it could be eroded away leaving the organization sinking!

One of the best things about an internship at ABT is the opportunity to get an insight into the different departments into the organization, through various workshops and talks that occur each Friday. On one recent Friday, Godwin Farrugia, ABT’s Financial Controller, spoke to us about finance and helped us to decipher the various elements of the Form 990. The Form 990 is the annual report that a nonprofit organization, as determined under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, must submit to the IRS. It provides financial information of the organization’s activities over the preceding year, including its revenue, expenses, assets, details about its endowment (if any), and details of its personnel. These reports are disclosed to the public and are made available on helpful sites like Guidestar. However, like all things published by the IRS, it almost requires a degree to decipher each question, and what it reveals about the organization.

Godwin stepped us through the report, highlighting important questions asked by the IRS, what each section means, and basically why things are the way they are. For example, what’s the rationale of following a calendar year over a June-July fiscal year, the differences between “temporarily restricted” and “permanently restricted” endowment (Hint: one is akin to deferred revenue), and what may sound alarm bells! Reading Form 990s is a crucial skill when working with nonprofits as it gives you important information about a nonprofit organization’s programs, how much revenue is generated from its programs (and how much they cost!), and generally the financial health of an organization. The juicier part is finding out who are the highest paid employees as well.

While Form 990s and finance are about as sexy as a ballerina’s feet after a performance of Giselle, it is nothing to dismiss. Like firm feet can support a dancer en pointe seemingly forever, a ballet company with strong financial health helps to ensure it will continue to operate well into the distant future!

Jeremy Leung

Spring 2015

Institutional Support Intern

The Energy of the Process: Spring Studio Visits for Members

10 Apr

Earlier this month, American Ballet Theatre hosted members for the first round of Spring Studio Visits, an event welcoming members to attend closed rehearsals at ABT’s studios. Given my increased excitement each morning as I walk through the doors of 890 Broadway, I admit that what follows in this blog post stems from a biased place. However, despite my predisposition, this opportunity to experience private rehearsals is not to be missed. In fact, I find these visits alone to be completely convincing of acquiring an ABT membership. Two weeks after the open rehearsals, I am still finding myself thinking about the event and feeling energized by the experience. The proximity to such an incredible quality of work, the climate of focused determination and smart humor, and the tone set through both the verbal and the tacit dialogue is an experience unlike any onstage performance.


As an intern, I am slowly beginning to understand the enormity of an organization with this responsibility, history, and scope. ABT is a critical player in its field, which demands strategy, passion and persistence from those providing funding and energy to the organization. Just as spring brings a sense of clarity with coat shedding and sunshine, the Spring Studio Visits felt like a clarifying simplification. This first-hand view of what ultimately fuels this terrific organization was nothing short of extraordinary. With all of the moving parts required to keep an organization relevant, it was striking to boil it all down to the movement—the art that drives the fundraising, the enthusiasm that sparks the marketing, the details that motivate the training, the work that charges the education, the thrill that engages audiences and the intellect that sustains them.

In our product-oriented world, it was striking to have two hours to pause and absorb the process. Of course, the polished, onstage ABT product can be truly magical. Nevertheless, spending a morning reveling in the process of how this magic grows has been a highlight of my spring, and I cannot recommend it enough.

Molly Gibbons

Institutional Support Intern

Spring 2014

“Incredible Generosity”

28 Nov

Throughout my time as an intern at ABT, I have written countless thank you letters. Of course, it is a fulfilling and interesting task to learn the names of the foundations, corporations, and individuals that support ABT, and to learn the specific programs and dancers that mean enough to them to inspire them to donate their time and money. At the Fall Gala, however, my job as the Institutional Support Intern came to life as many of the individuals and companies I had been writing to were present at this event, all in the same room. It was a very special experience to put faces to names, and even more special to see the incredible community surrounding ABT. In my letters, I use phrases like “incredible generosity,” “tremendous loyalty,” and “outstanding dedication to the arts” quite often, and sometimes it feels as though they lose their meaning over time. With one look at the Koch promenade that night, it was clear that this is not the case. The fact is that these words of praise are meaningful, and are appropriate in describing the many Gala attendees who contribute to ABT. Being a part of this event was a truly magical experience – it was incredibly inspiring to meet the people who allow ABT to be the amazing company that it is.

Lauren Wingenroth

Institutional Support Intern

Fall 2013

Lauren Wingenroth at the David H. Koch Theater during the 2013 Fall Gala

Lauren Wingenroth at the David H. Koch Theater during the 2013 Fall Gala