Photo: Nonprofit Internship Program

Using Unique Perspectives to Improve Donor Demographics

Posted on September 16, 2023 by Zoie Alger, Nonprofit Internship Program

Editor's Note: Since 2018, The Patterson Foundation has strengthened a collaborative partnership with the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy (LFSOP) through the Advancing Philanthropic Leadership (APL) initiative. The Nonprofit Internship Program, one piece of the APL initiative, offers current LFSOP students an opportunity to gain valuable, hands-on experience through PAID remote internships while strengthening nonprofits in the Suncoast region.


As a philanthropic studies student, I have had a strong desire to expand my knowledge and participate in more hands-on philanthropic endeavors. Through The Patterson Foundation's internship program, I connected with the Military Heritage Museum, found an opportunity that saw my potential, and participated in nonprofit planned giving projects.

From the beginning, I felt a close connection with this organization, as it is located in Florida, just south of where my family resides. Despite being nearly 1,000 miles away, the staff welcomed me with open arms and was excited to see what I could contribute.

My experience with the Military Heritage Museum revolved around planned giving and donor motivations. I conducted in-depth research on what other museums did well, including deferred estate gifts, charitable gift annuities, charitable trusts, the museum's annual giving campaign, life insurance, endowment funds, tributes, and the museum's theater. I based my research on popular national military museums, such as the National World War II Museum and the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum. After completing my research, I presented my thoughts to Executive Director Gary Butler through infographics. To incorporate my research into the infographics, I created nine different variations of the site pages as mindmaps.

mindmap 1

Throughout my collaboration with Gary, we appreciated how our age disparities enriched our perspectives. I leaned more toward modernization and accessibility, whereas Gary leaned more toward having a sophisticated approach to the site. The designs we came up with during our weekly meetings allowed for a mix of these features and approaches to giving by incorporating more personable pictures, icons, and videos. Through our collaboration, we realized that having a connection and learning about veterans' stories drew donors of all ages to the museum, along with the fact that providing accessibility to numerous demographics was important.

What made this experience so special was learning about the different stories of military families and veterans. As someone who holds veterans close to my heart because my uncle fought in Iraq, it was truly beautiful to see the impact the Military Heritage Museum brings to those who served and, as their mission states, "honoring all who serve." Being able to research and bring new life to this organization was a truly unforgettable experience. I am so grateful for my time with the Military Heritage Museum, and I look forward to seeing how the museum evolves.

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