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Projects that get you working

D-SIP interns have completed 268 major projects across the University since 2007. Browse the categories at right to explore the variety of rewarding and inspiring work that you could be doing as a member of D-SIP’s next generation.


Michigan Athletics: Thank-A-Thon & Major Gift Pipeline Prospecting


The University of Michigan Athletic Department is 1 out of 24 Self-Sustaining Athletic Departments in the NCAA. Therefore, a large part of its revenue comes from the generous gift of donors. This summer I had the amazing opportunity to work at the University of Michigan’s Athletic Development office on two different projects: The Thank-a-Thon and Prospect Research. A Thank-a-Thon is an event where people call donors and thank them for their donation to the organization. For Michigan Athletics, our goal for the Thank-a-Thon is to connect student-athletes with donors, educated student-athletes on the importance and impact of the donations we receive, and to engage donors at a higher level. My main responsibility for the Thank-a-Thon was to create a plan for it that will include strategies to encourage student-athletes to participate and the logistics of the event. In addition to the Thank-a-Thon, I worked on prospect research. Major Gift Officers provided names of potential donors for me to speak with. I had the opportunity to engage with potential prospects and qualify them into the major gift donor cycle by asking them questions about their time and experience with Michigan Athletics.


A lot of student-athletes are not aware of the development side of Athletics and how important the donations received are. This project is important because it will educate student-athletes and allow them to feel a sense of gratitude. Donors are important to Athletics because they provide the necessary funds for the construction and renovation of the facilities where they compete, practice, eat and study. Additionally, donors donate money for scholarship endowments, and without their gifts, some of the student-athlete’s teammates wouldn’t be here today. The Thank-a-Thon will hopefully allow donors to feel more engaged because they are able to connect and speak with someone who has been impacted by their donation.

The prospect research project is also important because it increases the number of prospects in the Major Gift Officer’s portfolios, which, in turn, will increase engagement between constituents of interest and Michigan Athletics.  

Skills Gained:

  • Communication
  • Relationship Building
  • Strategic Thinking
  • Effective Stewardship


“I realize now that before D-SIP I did not know what a career in Development looked like or what Philanthropy really was. I am now ending my time at D-SIP with a better understanding of Philanthropy, my role in it, new career interests and possibilities I never imagined I could have, and new life-long friends thanks to all of the amazing people in my cohort.”

Flor Casanas, D-SIP ‘17





Ozone House: Stewardship and Donor Engagement


I  created Ozone House’s first formal standard operating stewardship procedure guide. The guide enables an increase in donor retention, community reputation, supporter base and donor relations. Growing engagement of donors and corporate sponsors would ultimately help Ozone Houses programs for youth become stronger than they already are as well as show for a well-managed organization. I worked with corporate sponsors to get feedback for stewardship best practices for specific companies and also updated and managed thank you letters in GiftWorks (Ozone House Database).


Stewarding donors the proper way is a strategy that will likely turn into continued support of Ozone House and will help to build personal relationships with donors. The more donors Ozone House has, the more dollars they can use to helping homeless youth. Keeping donors engaged about the organization mission and where their gifts are going are a huge part of the growth of Ozone House. Understanding how donors’ gifts are being positively used is also a way that donors will then spread the word about the organizations good work, ultimately marketing for the organization and getting more people on board to grow the nonprofit.

Skills Gained:

  • Stewardship Best Practices
  • Prospect/Analytical Research
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Cross-Cultural Competency
  • Database Management
  • Benchmarking


D-SIP gave me the opportunity to see my potential in the professional work environment. I had the privilege of growing my understanding of what philanthropy means to me and I also increased my want to make positive change in the world.

Tristan Jacob, D-SIP ’17



U-M Medical School: Student and Young Alumni Engagement



The Medical Education & Alumni Relations team in the Office of Medical Development has had the opportunity to analyze, evaluate, and strengthen the focus of the alumni relations program. In recent years, an identified gap exists in the engagement of medical students and young alumni, who have graduated in the past 15 years. To help build this bridge, I received the opportunity to investigate this challenge by identifying the needs and passions of medical students and young alumni, improve existing and/or create new programming to increase lifelong engagement with the U-M Medical School, and ultimately, increase overall philanthropic support to the Medical School by sustaining lifelong relationships with the young alumni.


The impact of my project was fairly widespread in the beginning, but in the end, was a culmination of smaller tasks that helped create a proper solution. A survey was sent to over 1,000 young alumni from the U-M Medical School, as well as to current medical students (M1-M4). The survey further indicated their interests and passions, which gave a clearer picture as to how to keep them connected to the Medical School. Additionally, phone discussions were held with the Directors of Alumni Relations from top-tier medical institutions to understand their best practices that could be replicable at the U-M Medical School. After analyzing the results, I created a list of recommendations that can improve current programs and/or create new ones to help increase young alumni engagement with the Medical School.

Skills Gained:

  • Effective and Professional Survey Design
  • Research and Strategic Planning
  • Collaboration and Communication
  • Benchmarking


“D-SIP has shown me philanthropy is a part of daily life, regardless of what you give and how you give. A simple gesture can result in a positive impact in an individual’s life and so, I strive to play my part by doing exactly that to make our community an even better place to live in.”

Sarang Modi, D-SIP ‘17



Office of University Development: Best Practices in Gift Processing


The Gifts and Records Administration (GRA) Office in the Office of University Development not only processes every gift that comes into the university, but also updates the alumni database in order to ensure that U-M continues to operate as one of the top public universities at fundraising.  The team serves as the central hub for all gift processing and receipting for each of the schools, colleges, and units across campus. With 44 different schools, colleges, and units (SCUs) within the university’s decentralized development structure, it is critical that the GRA team establishes clear communication with each unit to guarantee accurate and timely reporting. My project focuses on doing just that. The project aims to promote best practices in gift processing by recommending groups of similarly sized, scaled, and capable SCUs across campus. After grouping similar SCUs together, I was tasked to offer several recommendations on specific roles, responsibilities, and projects to improve gift processing for both the Gifts and Records Administration Team and the units. These tasks required extensive data collection and analysis on each SCUs’ development structure and gift processing practices.


Although it is too early to know exactly how my project will impact the GRA team and gift processing at the university, a couple projected impacts can be predicted. One of them revolves around improving gift processing efficiency and accuracy at the university. This outcome would improve the donor experience by allowing SCUs to utilize the donations sooner and by allowing for donors to be stewarded more quickly. Additionally, the schools, colleges, and units across campus will gain further training on best practices for gift processing with in-house mailings. This may lead to less rework and cost for both the units and the GRA team.

Skills Gained:

  • Data Collection/Analysis
  • Project Management
  • Written/Verbal Communication
  • Benchmarking
  • Time Management
  • Cross Departmental Collaboration


D-SIP not only provided me with wealth of knowledge about philanthropy, but also gave me the opportunity to form awesome friendships and uncover several underlying personal values that may significantly impact my career aspirations going forward.

Mitch Ridley, D-SIP ’17




The Michigan Law School Office of Development and Alumni Relations works to continue supporting current law students, faculty, and programs as well as actively engaging alumni through reunions, mentoring programs, and the Nannes 3L Challenge. Alumnus John Nannes created the Nannes 3L Challenge to encourage young alumni to support Michigan Law. For each 3L (third year law student) who makes a commitment to give back to the Law School Fund for the first four years after their graduation, John will donate $250 to the law school student organization(s) of their choosing. I emailed and called alumni who have not fulfilled their commitment to remind them about the pledge they made and encourage them to make a gift to the Law School Fund. I was also tasked to create a survey which will be sent out to alumni to understand their involvement with the law school and gauge why non-donors do not give to the law school. In addition to these two projects, I also assisted in events and communicated to alumni and students for the mentoring program. This experience gave me with a more holistic view of development.


Small moments can have a large impact. Sending out reminder emails and making phone calls to remind alumni helped achieve the class fulfillment goals and continued to engage young alumni through the Nannes 3L Challenge. The survey I created will help the Law School understand how involved alumni are with the law school and the their familiarity with the Law School Fund. In addition, this survey will allow the development office to analyze which fundraising practices resonate better with alumni and how they can improve their methods of engagement. These projects will help the Law School expand on the great work they have done over the years and reach higher levels of alumni engagement.

Skills Gained:

  • Time Management
  • Effective Communication
  • Research and Analysis
  • Teamwork


D-SIP expanded my views on philanthropy and showed me the impact it can have in the world. In addition, this program helped me grow both as a professional and on a personal level. D-SIP and Michigan Law have provided me with skills and relationships that I will carry with me throughout my life.

Srinidhi Subramanian, D-SIP ’17



Michigan Medicine: Developing Stewardship Practices


Mid-level gifts hold two observations: they are above the range of typical mass stewardship acts, but they are not large enough to receive major gift-level stewardship. My project was designed to address the best practices around responding to this stewardship gap. I worked to understand and analyze industry-wide practices and standards for stewarding mid-level gifts through the benchmarking of peer institutions, internal departments, and nonprofits. I then identified common trends and patterns, leading towards final recommendations for Michigan Medicine stewardship.


With a greater understanding of industry-wide practices, development teams will have accurate information to measure their own stewardship practices. This measurement will serve as a platform to begin to create change within the current stewardship practices. This project will back the claims for the implementation of certain stewardship acts as standard industry-wide.

Skills Gained:

  • Data analysis
  • Benchmarking 
  • Research
  • Communication
  • Stewardship 


D-SIP helped broaden my perspective on philanthropy into a complex concept that considers the many motivations, impacts, and influences this field encompasses. I am thankful for the friends and resources that will continue to inspire me as a young professional.

Caleb Lee, D-SIP ’17



U-M Dearborn Foundation Relations: Capacity Building


As a university with a history rooted in transforming southeast Michigan and serving the metropolitan area, UM-Dearborn Foundation Relations aids in connecting faculty and staff with foundation funding opportunities across the region for positive community change. Together, faculty and staff develop innovative proposals that align with foundations’ priorities. One of the most important facets of Foundation Relations is its ability to connect faculty with foundations to support initiatives through funding and inform them about potential out there. The office is currently investigating ways to best communicate funding opportunities systematically to relevant faculty research. In order to create this system, I was tasked with researching faculty focus areas and creating targeted listservs so faculty are not bombarded with irrelevant information to their work. Our goal is to direct faculty to funding opportunities aligned with their interest areas.


This project expanded UM-Dearborn’s foundation portfolio (a collection of all foundations we have contact with) and helped systemize grant submissions from faculty across campus. Additionally, the database I created helped to create targeted labels in the faculty directory on the University website, which now indicates specific research areas. Students will be able to use the labels to find potential research opportunities or professors they may want to study under. The database also successfully led to the creation of a quarterly newsletter that sent specific funding priorities to targeted faculty research listservs. With an efficient communication method, our team can strengthen foundation funding success across the campus. This will also build capacity for Institutional Advancement to reach the Victors for Michigan Campaign goals. Ultimately, this project strengthened the relationship between Institutional Advancement and campus partners, expanded the potential for more foundation contacts to be established, more donor priorities to be fulfilled, and reinforced the university’s potential to meet its overall fundraising goals.

Skills Gained:

  • Communication: I had to communicate with various stakeholders, including my direct supervisor, the development associate, and faculty members to ensure that the data I was collecting was categorized correctly and will be useful to the set goals/ purpose
  • Research: I was tasked with researching individual faculty members’ research focus areas and repeated priorities of foundations to conceptualize the best “big bucket” categories for which listservs will be build out of
  • Data mining: My project required researching information across units to document specific areas of faculty research, and benchmarking with external partners to create an effective system for foundation funding


D-SIP allowed me to refine my passions and dreams into tangible skills and long-term goals. Through its strategic theory class, nonprofit management exploration, and professional development component, D-SIP simultaneously challenged and supported me in seeking new career pathways I never had considered possible before.

Fiana Arbab, D-SIP ’17