Mackenzie Schuler was welcomed Monday by Scripps PRSSA for our last virtual meeting of the semester. Her passion for the nonprofit sector started with a personal experience that led her to a college internship with OhioHealth hospital system in Columbus, Ohio. After college, she was offered a position with Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio, the world’s largest Ronald McDonald House, where she worked for several years. For the past four years, she has worked as the communications manager for Saint Joseph Academy, an all-girls high school in Cleveland, where she encourages everyone to make a difference each day.
Mackenzie’s passion for nonprofit work started when she underwent personal experiences related to the medical field — she was impressed by the remarkable stories in these spaces that were waiting to be told. She felt inspired to tell stories based on the nonprofit care she, her family and others received, and she wanted to know how she could help others, too. This led her to pursue nonprofit work in the public relations industry.
The first nonprofit internship Mackenzie worked with was Habitat for Humanity. She mainly worked on their social media, and it solidified her love for nonprofit work. During her senior year of college, she interned with Ohio Health as a media and communications intern — she realized she could combine her love for writing to help people within her community. In this role, she wore many hats, which is a theme of nonprofit work in any industry. At the age of 22, she facilitated press conferences, acted as the public info officer for crisis practice events and communicated with the media. The experience was hugely collaborative.
You might not have your dream job right away — Mackenzie didn’t. Out of college, she worked as a bank teller and kept applying to nonprofits for months. She was scheduled to interview with the Ronald McDonald House in Columbus, the largest house in the organization. She worked there for four years with a mission is to provide a home away from home for families who have a child in the hospital.
The nonprofit worked to make a positive contribution for families with a loved one in the hospital by providing meals and housing. Along the way, she met incredible families and change-makers, which is a component of nonprofit work she highly values. In this role, she focused on crafting newsletters and media outreach initiatives. She managed social channels and worked to connect families, volunteers and community supporters together. Her outreach included connecting with radio stations, blogging and Instagramming. She was also in charge of fundraising. “Basically, you’re the media person, marketing person, PR person, etc., especially in a PR setting for a nonprofit,” Mackenzie said.
While it sounds like a lot was on her plate, Mackenzie said this type of work is the most rewarding. It allows you to connect with incredible and resilient people who are impacted by the work that organization does. “You are the chief storyteller,” Mackenzie said, “which is an honor.”
She left the RMH after four years to move closer to her family. She sought out work in the education field because her mom had worked in an inner-city school. “In your life, you are most impacted by the educators around you,” Mackenzie said. In this role, she gets to showcase students in and out of the classroom, helping empower them to be the best learners. She monitors social media with Cision, showcases student events and alumni stories, plans media outreach for prospective students and collaborates on the school’s newsletter.
Mackenzie’s Words of Wisdom:
- Your first job doesn’t have to be your dream job — Mackenzie worked as a teller at a bank and learned communication skills … but she knew the next best thing was coming.
- Get involved in college. If you can do nonprofit work, or volunteer for an organization you are passionate about, do it! Nonprofit work requires you to prioritize your work.
- Get to know your coworkers, even if it’s intimidating. Sit down with everyone at that nonprofit — you will gonna work with each person one way or another. Meet them where they are at —get to know them and relate to them. Always try to be approachable, because one day you won’t be the new person. It lets you be an available resource to those around you.
- Take classes you are passionate about.
- Connect with your professors. Let them help you network.
- Use the career center — it’s free and they will let you know what’s next
- Use social media wisely. Once it’s out there, it’s out there. Don’t put yourself in a situation where your employer will see what you post online (Is this something I would say to my grandma?).
- Show everyone respect and kindness. You never know what someone is going through.
- You need to have a good work-life balance. It is important to disconnect, especially from nonprofit work, which is usually more heartbreaking and emotionally demanding.
- Stay grounded — surround yourself with people who encourage and love your passions
- If you want fundraising experience, or any type of experience, look for work and try it out. Do your best. Do anything behind the scenes that will give you and edge.