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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

Submerged at the Met

27 Jun

Growing up with a strong passion for ballet, I could always rattle off a couple of beloved prima ballerinas, some classic ballets, maybe a male dancer or two, but I could never tell you what it takes for a full production to come to life. I’m currently in my fourth week of the ABT Internship Program, and already my knowledge of how a ballet company operates has increased significantly. At the beginning of the program, us interns suggested people within ABT that we would love to talk with during our weekly intern meetings. I opted for what I consider the unsung, and unseen, heroes of ABT: the music department. Always submerged beneath the stage, with the only clue being an occasional lock of white hair swaying wildly around in tempo, the ABT orchestra and its three conductors provide a vital component to a performance’s success.

Interns enjoying ABT Orchestra rehearsal of Sylvia

Interns enjoying ABT Orchestra rehearsal of Sylvia

On a beautiful Friday morning, we entered the dark abyss under the Metropolitan Opera House. After sitting in on an orchestra rehearsal for Sylvia, followed by a company class (read: jaw-dropping), we met with Charles Barker, the principal conductor for ABT. He talked about his background and the fortunate circumstances that led him to ABT, as well as letting us stand on the conductor podium in the Met and wildly wave our hands about like it was no big deal. His enthusiasm and love for ABT was evident and contagious. It is always inspiring to talk to someone that seems to truly love what they do everyday.

Interns with Conductor Charles Barker in Dressing Room

Interns with Conductor Charles Barker in Dressing Room

This trip to the Met was only one day in the internship, and it would be misleading to write that all we do is hang out at the Met and eat homemade chocolate with conductors. Outside of these excursions, I intern with Institutional Support within the Development Department, which focuses on private and government foundations, and corporations. The Development Department is a crucial arm of ABT that is in a constant cycle of grant proposals, gift acknowledgements, and further prospecting. Only four weeks in and I have already learned so much about the inner workings of ABT, but I’m sure there is still more to come.

Tara Collins

Institutional Support Intern

Summer 2013

From Australia to ABT – An Intern Experience

10 Dec

by Michelle Neyland, Major Gifts & Institutional Support Intern

The time has flown by so quickly since I arrived in New York 4 weeks ago!  I flew in from Australia in September, from the West Australian Academy of Performing Arts as an Arts Management student, however nothing could have prepared me for the ABT experience. I have had the ride of my life in just three months and I cannot believe it has to end! The wonderful staff at ABT made me feel welcome as soon as walked in the door and I was put straight to work as a Major Gifts Intern and Intuitional Support Intern. It has been an extraordinary year for American Ballet Theatre and I have felt so fortunate to be a part of it! ABT’s tremendous efforts continue to lead them into ballet history!

The Fall Season approached, I was introduced to the world of events working on everything from invitation designs and RSVP’s, to hosting Major Donor and Membership events, while assisting throughout the entire Fall Season. The World Premier of Alexei Ratmansky’s Symphony # 9, part one of a tri-series choreographed by ABT’s Artist in Residence was a fabulous success. The celebration continued with a dedication to Rodeo’s 70th anniversary among other outstanding works. Every day and every night either side of performances were full of events. My Fall Season schedule began with ABT’s Opening Night Gala, where the incredible New York social scene came to life! I have never witnessed so many Oscar de la Renta dresses in one room—the fashionable showdown of ABT donors reminded me of a Hollywood movie scene. Between the photographers, celebrities and mingling with guests I did not sit down.

The Fall Season continued ABT’s momentum with the annual Chairman’s Council Curtain Call dinner. After guiding Chairman’s Council members to their tables, I was able to sit amongst the Major Donors, Artistic staff and Dancers to really absorb what ABT is all about. The support from donors seen throughout the development department particularly from the Special Gift and Major Gifts department was to the Company’s credit. The dedicated staff and public’s emphasis on the importance of art and culture in their society was emotionally elevating. The honor of working with such a leading arts Company, particularly in Development was intellectually and spiritually touching. Ratmansky is truly the Balanchine of the 21st century- ABT is making ballet history!

I have made the most amazing connections in this wonderful city and the dearest friends anyone could ever make!