An Exploration of Contrasts: My Internship at UniversalGiving

This summer, I joined UniveralGiving as a member of the Marketing Team. I applied for an internship at UniversalGiving after hearing CEO, and Duke alumna, Pamela Hawley speak at an event for women in entrepreneurship at Duke. I was looking for an opportunity to learn and make a genuine impact at a values-based company. At UniversalGiving I experienced how seemingly diverse skills and ideas harmoniously come together to create a successful business. Here are three things I learned:


  • Branding:
    Over the course of our weekly marketing meetings, our team developed our company brand. We curated content to promote our values of giving, volunteerism and international interconnectedness. We also branded ourselves as thought leaders on topics of interest to our community, creating dialogue on world issues. By publishing posts designed to spark conversation, showcasing our NGO partners doing meaningful work around the world and contributing to posts on others’ pages, our social media presence was about much more than increasing our business and traffic to our website. 

    Through my work, I learned that the value of a company’s social media extends well beyond self-promotion and provides an opportunity to create a values-aligned brand and authentic engagement and conversation.


  • Full Circle Work:
    Because of my quantitative background, my main responsibility on the marketing team was to produce weekly analytics reports for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Analytics. I monitored and tracked changes in likes, comments, shares, followers and user acquisition week after week.I, however, was able to better analyze trends and put them into perspective because I also helped curate the content. I evaluated the numbers within the context of our weekly social media campaign themes and nuances of our specific posts. Because UniversalGiving is a small company, I had a full circle view of our social media strategy; I created the posts, studied how they were received and recommended new strategies. Contributing to both the content and the analysis was immensely helpful allowing me to take on a prominent role in restructuring our social media tactical plan and creating a more effective strategy.

    Through my work on the Marketing Team, I learned the value of having both a quantitative and creative skill set. By blending together these two seemingly disparate areas, I was able to be more effective in both.


  • Precision Finance:
    My quantitative background also took me out of the marketing world and into the Office of the CEO preparing financial reports for the CEO and CFO. Not only did I learn how to create professional products, but I got a close-up view into how the finances of a company are managed and the level of detail required for this line of work. My work on the financials involved preparing invoice spreadsheets for analysis, creating expense reports, and working on the three-year budget projection for an upcoming board meeting. 

    By gaining insight into the financial branch of a company, I learned how broad this area can be; it requires both extreme attention to detail and an ability to abstract into the future. Precision and prediction must blend together to create a dependable financial base for a company.

My experience at UniversalGiving demonstrated how diverse skills and ideas align and integrate to create stronger outcomes. This was a fitting lesson to learn as UniversalGiving is a social entrepreneurship venture; with a goal of both promoting values and maintaining financial stability, contrasts are built in its foundation.


Connecting with Pamela  

It is special when two people connect and create such an exciting and mutually beneficial relationship. Here is the story of how Saumya met Pamela Hawley and became an intern at UniversalGiving. Saumya currently works virtually from India!

On the 25th of February, I get a message from my sister, Mahima on the family group chat saying, “Saum look up UniversalGiving. You might want to consider working with them.” She was at a conference at Duke University and had just met Pamela Hawley, the Founder and CEO of UniversalGiving. Mahima thought that Pamela was amazing. Jokingly, I asked Mahima whether she had told Pamela that she had a sister and expected the answer to be no. Instead, Mahima said, “actually I did.” I immediately went on to the UniversalGiving website and looked at all the work that the organization does, domestically and internationally and I could not wait to find a way to work with them.

My sister said that she would email Pamela, mention my name, and ask her if I could get in touch. Even though Mahima had met Pamela, I was not expecting Pamela to say yes, and I definitely was not expecting such a quick response from her. I received an enthusiastic reply to my email within minutes, saying that she would love for me to intern with UniversalGiving. She connected me with Ayuko, the operations director, for additional information about summer internships which led me to believe that I would communicate with Ayuko from there on out. However, after a few days, I received an email from Pamela connecting me with Natalia and the Development Team. Pamela also requested that I call her so that we could catch up on the weekend. Twenty-four hours later, I was on the phone with the CEO of the organization!

Not even in my wildest dreams did I imagine that this was a possibility – that my sister would mention me to someone at Duke and a week later I would be on the phone with the CEO, ready to help her organization with research and social media! My talk with Pamela was absolutely amazing. Apart from how great it was to just speak to Pamela, it was unbelievable how enthusiastic she was about having me on the team. She was as excited as I was, and she wanted me to start working right away! What stuck with me was that this phone call was not a one-time thing. Pamela said that I had a direct line of access to her and I should never hesitate to connect with her. She loves working with the team and I think this is incredibly unique. It is not often that you get to talk to a CEO of a company who is as enthusiastic as you are about working for them.  

This has just been an incredible opportunity, not only in the way that it happened but also the speed at which this happened – not even 10 days after my sister met Pamela, I have a UniversalGiving account and I am signing an Internship Agreement with them. I am so glad that I get to work with this incredible, highly approachable and enthusiastic team!

By Saumya Varma

Top 4 things not to use your interns for


At UniversalGiving we love our interns and recognize the tremendous amount of value they bring to us. We want all of our interns to experience growth not only as employees but also as human beings during their time with us.

Some of us have been working in the workforce for 20, 30, 40 years plus.  We’ve done a lot of things over our career, step by step, building ourselves and organizations to new levels.  

In your mind, you’ve  worked very hard to advance yourself and your company.  You’ve also rolled up your sleeves thousands of times to help make sure the team can succeed, whether that’s raising a new round of funds, or xeroxing.   Meeting with a millionaire investor, or cleaning the dishes after a team event.   You feel you have paid your dues.

Yet being a part of a company and culture isn’t genuinely driven by that mindset.  Your devotion to work should be because you want to, and would like to help. That sincerity will advance you light years.   Not only will your managers recognize your genuine attitude, but you will feel a sense of integrity within, which is driving you for the right reasons to serve.  

But you might be tempted.  

“I worked so hard!  I need help.  It’s time for the young 18 year old to roll up their sleeves so I can do the important work.”

Part of that is true.  Your interns should want to serve and help in any way they can.   But it can never be your attitude in full.  People of any age deserve to have meaningful opportunities to grow. Provide them an enriching experience that will help them grow as individuals and professionals.


So here are the top 4 things you shouldn’t ask your intern for:

  1. Go get coffee.  Everyone does this! There is no reason why you can’t get up from your office to go get your coffee and show the team that you are working to provide for yourself—your own caffeine fix!  Please keep in mind as well that as the newer generation is more socially conscious, they may not agree with caffeine or even the type of drink you are having, or even feel it is holistic or organic.  So, where you can you want to avoid any sense of conflict of values.
  2. Xerox.  We all need help with copying, faxing, and it’s okay to ask them to do it.  However, please be mindful that this should be no more than 5-10% of their job.  They are coming there to gain experience, not to press buttons.
  3. Personal errands.  Unless you have an agreement—which usually isn’t the case for college interns that they are doing personal errands for you—that should never be the case.  They are coming there to get work experience, not to pick up your dry cleaning.  Remember, they are an important part of the brand that you are building.  They can post online about anything that concerns them, but more important is that you want to make sure you’ve got a great relationship with them.
  4. Leave them manager-less.  If you are not present, make sure someone is.  They are looking for guidance, they want to grow, and they want to learn.  They don’t have anyone to go-to to ask normal questions about business.  They are going to feel stranded, and their work product will suffer, their experience will suffer, and your relationship with them will be not so strong.

We all need help and there’s nothing wrong with that.  Make sure that you give your interns positive ways to succeed in the workplace and build their resume.

Are You a Water Waster?

It’s World Water Week and this year’s theme is wastewater. About 80% of the water we use goes down the drain. The water we don’t use flows back into nature and pollutes the environment.  Take this quiz to find out if you are a water waster.

Here are some ways to conserve water!

  1. When washing dishes by hand or brushing your teeth, don’t let the water run.
  2. Use dishwashers. They use less water than washing dishes by hand.
  3. Use a reusable water bottle when drinking, even at home. This reduces the number of glasses that you need to wash.
  4. When you scrape pots and pans clean, soak them instead of letting the water run.
  5. Throw food, oils, and trash in the garbage, not down the sink. Limit your use of the garbage disposal.
  6. Water plants only when they need it because more plants die from overwatering than underwatering.
  7. Use your extra sink water or bathtub water to water your plants or wash your car.

There’s a lot we can do to conserve water. For World Water Week also consider giving to people who do not have access to clean water.

You can provide solar powered running water for orphans in Africa here.

Visit Water Use it Wisely to learn more water saving strategies




Here is a testimonial from one of our amazing staff members, Amanda Stephens! She is currently our marketing associate and we are so thrilled to have her on the team!

“I first joined UniversalGiving because I was looking to find an internship that would teach me valuable work skills in an environment where giving and volunteering were valued. Over these past 3 years, I have formed amazing connections with some of my fellow interns, staff, and the CEO, too! Everyone has been incredibly supportive of the work that I am doing and I am grateful every day to be surrounded by such caring and dedicated individuals.”

-Amanda Stephens, Marketing Associate