Meet Elyse Bax! Elyse is a graduating senior at Calvin University, receiving her Bachelor’s degree in Organizational Communication next month. We are excited to share that Elyse recently began a career as a Special Events Coordinator at an area nonprofit!


Three Lessons I Learned During My Internship with Kennari Consulting

When I found the internship with Kennari Consulting on Handshake, I had no idea the impact it would have on my career. Having spent a couple of years working in the alumni and development office at my university and in other development offices around town, I entered my internship with some development knowledge. However, like they say: you don’t know what you don’t know. My time at Kennari was a constant stream of learning the ins and outs of the development field in general and, more specifically, in Grand Rapids. However, the biggest lessons that I took away from my time at Kennari were not practical skills. Instead they were lessons that have changed my personal philosophy on fundraising and work.

  1. Fundraising changes lives.

While this may seem obvious, as someone who often gets lost in the details of any given project, this lesson was an important one for me to remember as I did my work. During my time at Kennari, I got to bear witness to the success of the new Grand Rapids Promise Zone; a project that I was not personally involved in but was privileged enough to witness a fraction of the hard work that went into it. It was projects like the Promise Zone, which will give hundreds of students across Grand Rapids the opportunity to attend college, that reminded me of the overall importance of fundraising. The missions of organizations are impossible to execute without the work of the development staff working day in and day out on securing annual giving, campaign gifts, event planning, etc. It is because the money is coming in the door that the lives each organization touches are able to be transformed.

  1. Relationships are everything – especially within your team.

Relationships and fundraising are two concepts that have gone hand-in-hand since the beginning of time, and throughout my time at Kennari, I definitely learned about the importance of maintaining relationships with donors. However, I would argue that the relationships you create amongst the staff (development or otherwise) of your organization alter your ability to work effectively more than anything else. It didn’t take long for me to learn that the Kennari team is tightly knit. There is a deep-rooted trust in one another that drives their ability to execute excellent work for each client. Even as a new intern I was trusted with larger, client-facing projects and given responsibility to solve problems – both on my own and collaboratively. What was even more surprising to me was that throughout my entire seven months at Kennari, I never once heard a team member speak poorly of another. It is this kind of trust in team members and community that was a true highlight of my Kennari experience.

  1. Mentorship is a gift.

Kennari means “teacher” in Icelandic and teaching flows through everything that Kennari does – including their internship program. Throughout the program, I had the privilege of learning from everyone on the team – whether it was from office interactions, project leadership, or shadowing. It was not uncommon for a consultant to pause in the middle of a client meeting to explain a concept to me or for a consultant to tag me in on a project simply so that I could learn how and why it was being done. Furthermore, as the time grew closer and closer for me to graduate, it was not uncommon for consultants to send me job postings – supporting me even though it would mean leaving the internship program in the middle of my second semester. As I leave Kennari and start my career in development while finishing my degree at Calvin, I don’t take the last seven months of mentorship and support for granted.

I am forever grateful to the entire team at Kennari for shaping my professional and personal skills and philosophies so significantly. I am so thankful for every single opportunity I was given this year and I am so excited to take what I have learned into the next step in my career. Thank you for everything. I can’t imagine a better organization for me to spend my senior year with.

Elyse was an invaluable asset to the Kennari team for the last two semesters! Her confidence, desire to learn, humor, and excellent communication skills will serve Elyse well in her fundraising career. We are thrilled that she is starting her career with an outstanding organization in our community and look forward to crossing paths again in the future!

To learn more about Kennari Consulting’s internship program, check out our careers page.