State Policy Network
Development Apprentice Program produces another class of rising philanthropic leaders

State Policy Network’s Development Apprentice Program (DAP) is celebrating the completion of its second year—and with good reason. The 2019 SPN Development Apprentice Program supported the growth of 13 rising philanthropic leaders, 85 percent of whom are actively seeking professional roles in development, communications, or nonprofit organizations in general. With the growing need to attract and retain new fundraising leaders high across the Network, equipping and empowering development professionals is more important than ever.

DAP is a 10-week program that connects young professionals to development roles at state think tanks across the country. Apprentices are exposed to the concept of philanthropy, learn essential professional skills, and gain valuable experience working with a Network organization’s development team.

“At the end of the day what we struggle with, and what we always need, is to find more talent,” said Kristina Mitten Sanders, SPN’s senior director of leadership and philanthropic strategy, who has spearheaded SPN’s development training programs since 2011.

“The Development Apprentice Program was created to build the culture of philanthropy and instill basic development skills in young professionals. These are skill sets that can apply to every type of position, no matter where these apprentices go in their careers. We’re raising up future leaders in the Network—that could mean the next CEO, the next board member, or next communications director.”

The 2018 and 2019 Development Apprentices at SPN’s 27th Annual Meeting.

DAP connects young professionals to Network career paths

Following the 2019 program, 11 apprentices are seeking Network or development roles, and five apprentices have landed jobs or other significant opportunities as a result of DAP. Three apprentices were offered part-time roles with their host organizations as they finished school. The remainder of the class is still actively engaged in the program as alumni and just attended the 27th SPN Annual Meeting in Colorado Springs.

Grace Fendrick is working part-time for her placement organization, the Georgia Center for Opportunity (GCO), with plans to join full-time after she finishes school at UNC Charlotte. She is passionate about working in state policy and credits DAP with solidifying her interest in development. She knows she’s found a great fit, not only with a career in development, but also in her role at GCO.

2019 apprentice Madison Bauer, now a senior at Clemson University, emphasized how valuable the program is for someone about to enter the professional world. At her placement organization, The James Madison Institute in Florida, she learned to write proposals, letters of interest, and direct mail letters that were shared with donors. Bauer enjoyed picking up these unique writing skills, and she plans on pursuing a career in development or journalism after she graduates in the spring.

DAP is valuable not only to the apprentices, but to state think tanks as well. “State-based nonprofit organizations have a lot of difficulty getting good entry-level development staff,” said Scott Russell, vice president of development at the Georgia Center for Opportunity, which served as a think tank host. “DAP was a great resource and tool because we didn’t have to go out and try and find talent. We saw DAP as an opportunity to find someone who had already been pre-qualified by State Policy Network, so we knew we were going to get someone great. It was an opportunity for immediate success.”

DAP also provides management training for the development directors who supervise the apprentices, helping them further their own professional growth. Le Templar, vice president of foundations for the Goldwater Institute, a 2019 think tank host, appreciated the manager training: “As someone who hasn’t had much manager training, I enjoyed the opportunity to get to know how to think about working with employees who report to you and how to manage that situation effectively.”

SPN extends a special thank you to the following organizations for hosting the 2019 apprentices:

The 2018 Development Apprentice Program: Where are they now?

DAP continues to support apprentices long after the program ends—offering professional development through online resources, mentoring opportunities, networking events, and an invitation to attend SPN’s Annual Meeting. We checked in with some of our 2018 apprentices, to see what they are up to one year after completing the program. DAP’s inaugural class continues to succeed in their careers, both in and out of the Network.  

Max Morrison is now an annual fund and corporate relations coordinator at The Heritage Foundation. Morrison reflected on the important role DAP played in landing his job at Heritage: “I know I wouldn’t be in my current position at The Heritage Foundation without the Development Apprenticeship Program last summer. Before DAP, I had zero fundraising experience. The program did an excellent job laying out the fundamentals of fundraising. It solidified my interest in development—after going through the program I knew this is what I wanted to do with my career.”

Kelvey Vander Hart is also in a full-time development role in the Network—now a development assistant at the Show-Me Institute. Elizabeth Nealon, a senior at Clemson University, credits DAP for helping her land a development internship at the Cato Institute.

In August 2019, SPN welcomed 2018 apprentice Ayana Thomas as SPN’s new program associate. Carson Burke also found his way back to SPN, accepting an internship with SPN’s own development team after completing DAP. He will soon take these new leadership and professional skills into the for-profit sector as he steps into a financial advisor role at Edward Jones. Burke expressed gratitude for the program that helped him kickstart his career, and he plans to stay involved with the Network even as he transitions to a private-sector role.

What apprentices are saying about DAP

Grace Fendrick, Georgia Center for Opportunity, 2019 Apprentice: “DAP has changed my outlook on life and what I want to do. It’s shown me that I have so much more potential than I thought I did, and it’s given me a reason to work harder. I left the DAP program with a job offer, and I’m not even done with school yet. It’s provided me with so many opportunities to grow on both a professional and personal level.”

Madison Bauer, James Madison Institute (Florida), 2019 Apprentice: “DAP is designed to introduce young professionals to development as a career opportunity, but it also incorporates so many skills that can be used across the board—including knowing how to communicate with people and network with them, developing writing skills, or getting accustomed to the workplace. All of these skills are extremely helpful and apply to all career paths.”

Kelvey Vander Hart, Show-Me Institute (Missouri), 2018 Apprentice: “The most rewarding thing about the DAP program is the relationships that are formed. I can’t imagine where I would be without making those connections. Before starting DAP, I was completely new to fundraising—and the idea scared me. The program’s first week of training in DC provided a foundation and valuable tools to give me the correct mindset that eliminated that fear. SPN was responsible for opening up the whole world of development to me, and the program made me realize I want to continue grant writing and work on the organizational side in nonprofits.”

Ayana Thomas, Independence Institute (Colorado), 2018 Apprentice and SPN Program Associate: “I highly recommend the Development Apprentice Program to young professionals looking to jump-start their career. DAP was an intense bootcamp in development, but it also taught me general professional development skills. Through the program I was able to attend SPN’s Annual Meeting, where I connected with other people my age who were also just starting out. Having a community of people to work with and grow with his invaluable and something I will take with me throughout my career.”

Carson Burke, California Policy Center, 2018 Apprentice: “I am incredibly thankful for my time at SPN. I hope the organization feels like I’ve contributed to them as much they have contributed to my professional development. SPN takes better care of its people than any organization I’ve ever been a part of. They invest so much into their people, including the apprentices in the DAP program.”

Learn More

If you are interested in learning more about this program or serving as a host organization or mentor, please contact Kristina Mitten Sanders at

Categories: News
Organization: State Policy Network