Internship Spotlight: Kimberly Yang - Synergos

My name is Kimberly Yang, an up-and-coming third year at McGill University this fall. As a Joint Honours Philosophy and East Asian Studies student, nothing interests me more than thinking about and working towards solving the complex, the challenging, and the changing – the three C’s if you will!

Since birth (not literally, but time makes it feel that way), the desire to get involved in the socially complex shook my core. As years past, through many opportunities in the non-profit, youth empowerment, and arts sector, I learned about change-making, shaker-uppers, equity, and love. Locally – Markham Arts Council, Table de quartier Peter-McGill, Mobilizing for Milton Parc, TEDxMcGill, UNICEF Canada, Paprika Festival, and the Arts Undergraduate Society. Nationally – FORA, Apathy is Boring, and the United Nations Association in Canada. Through these organizations and through these chances to work alongside empowering teams, I now know my future will continue down this path: a path that tackles social inequities from the ground up.

This summer, I had the privilege of once again immersing myself in these areas of interest at Synergos. When applying for arts internships through McGill, it came as no surprise to me that Synergos particularly caught my eye. Established in 1986 by Peggy Dulany, Synergos is a global non-profit organization that leads numerous programs, networks, and collaborations that tackle current-day problems: poverty, climate change, social injustice, and more. Being an organization built around collaboration and trust, Synergos strives to dismantle unjust systems, solve global issues, and combat the world’s most fearsome problems by using Bridging Leadership, a philanthropic approach built upon change-making and collective action.

In many ways, it is this exact mission Synergos follows that really attracted me to apply for the organization in the first place. Having taken part in many local non-profits in the past, I was eager to get hands-on experience and see first-hand just how larger, more global leaders and organizations enacted change. Synergos was particularly unique in that it offered just that. Worldwide networks established, communities brought together – Synergos drives projects based on education, spirituality, wellbeing, health, climate change and sustainability, and more – all the while connecting leaders and sectors from all across the world to participate. The thought of being able to see such global, impactful strategies come together excited me like no other – where finally my interests in international policy, global non-profit activities, and research would be able to be of use and further, be honed. Wanting to better understand how activities such as policy and philanthropy could make an impact globally, I was beyond grateful to work in such an environment that taught just that.

As a Philanthropy and Development intern at Synergos, my responsibilities and tasks consisted of supporting both the administrative back-end through research and auditing, as well as front-end support for the Global Philanthropy Circle team. From the administrative aspect, I audited Synergos’ CRM database, made recommendations on how to streamline different aspects of the system, thoroughly reworked the platform’s format, and cleaned up constituency, prospect, and donor records on the database. Further, to help outreach partners and co-workers better utilize the platform itself, current CRM database user guides were updated to ensure smoother and more efficient use of the database. Research was another primary responsibility in the role of a Philanthropy and Development intern at Synergos. In particular, I was tasked with researching numerous prospects and organizations for Synergo’s Global Philanthropist Circle, which entailed putting together dossiers and creating records of potential philanthropist members and foundations that would be interested in supporting Synergos’ causes. Moreover, I also worked on assisting with historical research and compilation of donation, participation, and cost-based data into many of Synergos’ previous events and galas such as the David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership Award Gala spanning the last 20 years. In doing so, this collected data was then presented and used to better map out the future development of Synergos events moving forward.

If asked to choose what some highlights of this internship were, I would tell you I could not answer – because this entire internship was truly an incredible experience through and through. From the most welcoming co-workers and work environment, to being able to contribute to a worthwhile cause, I loved every aspect of my time on Synergos! I would, however, say that one particular highlight that comes to mind before all else is the opportunity of being able to work with so many different offices and groups within the Synergos umbrella.From working alongside the Global Philanthropist Circle initiatives, to supporting the development team in event planning, I was given endless opportunities to immerse myself in different environments, different projects, and different, but equally amazing, people.

The internship – though fulfilling all around – did not come without its hardships. Particularly as I entered such a large non-profit organization such as Synergos, I worried about and questioned my own abilities – questioning just how I’d be able to keep up, contribute, and support the rest of the team. My fears of inconveniencing others through my limited life experiences and skills haunted me as I began the start of my internship, and was one of the largest, mental barriers I faced.

Kimberly Yang working outside to make remote work more fulfilling – with a bottle of water in hand of course!

And yet, these worries soon faded.

Although initially worried about my worth, my supervisor and team members during my time at Synergos were some of the most supportive people I could have met. Eager to schedule individual check-ins and listen to my objective opinions, I soon came to feel welcomed and heard. My supervisor especially gave me much freedom to tailor my internship to better improve on specific interests or objectives I hoped to work towards – whether it be research or program development – and was always more than willing to lend a hand and make sure I was not feeling overwhelmed throughout what could have been a daunting experience.

Though I did not receive academic credit throughout my internship, working as a Philanthropy and Development intern at Synergos has been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity I will never forget – in the most positive sense of course! Alongside being able to dive deep into learning the fundamentals of global non-profits and activism, through Synergos, I can happily say that my university experience has been heightened through skills gained, inspiring people met, and newfound confidence in myself and the future. I would particularly like to give a special thank you to Tania Zouikin for funding the Tania Zouikin Arts Internship Award. This award’s primary goal was to help students gain a first-hand understanding of the global community and of issues pertaining to international development – and indeed, through the funds received, I learned and grew more than I could have ever imagined.

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