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Communications and Advocacy Intern

Organization Name

Michigan Environmental Council


Lansing, MI (Hybrid or Remote)

Description of the Intern’s Role and Responsibilities

The Michigan Environmental Council has three project possibilities for a Rackham Doctoral Intern. Please identify in your cover letter which project you are interested in contributing to for your internship experience.

Project Possibility 1: Movement Power for Michigan’s Environment


Movement Strategy Researcher


Ellen Vial, Engagement Coordinator

Modern environmental challenges are exceedingly complex—whether it’s the myriad forces driving climate change, the nuanced interface of economics and natural resource protection, or the social factors impeding the achievement of environmental justice. To be successful in advancing excellent environmental policy, today’s environmental movement has to be capable of assessing a dizzying array of social and scientific factors, convening advocates and allies numbering in the thousands, and delivering an effective and compelling message that cuts through fake news, clickbait, and a 24-hour news cycle.

In Michigan alone there are more than 1,500 nonprofit environmental and conservation organizations working at every scale (from tiny volunteer neighborhood associations to state chapters of powerful international organizations) and on every issue. This is, if kept strong and well-organized, a sufficient force to drive an environmental agenda that includes even the most confounding and controversial policies. The Environmental Council hopes to convene and coordinate exactly such a movement.

The intern will guide the Environmental Council in the application of contemporary network and movement theory in building a stronger multiagency force for protecting Michigan’s natural resources and public health. This work will involve researching effective social change movements, trade associations and coalitions; discovering and articulating barriers to complex movement building among Michigan environmentalists, and recommending strategic and tactical action priorities for our program.

Project Possibility 2: A Legacy for Michigan’s Environment


Development and Fundraising Intern


Tracy Zeman, Development Manager

Fundraising is a crucial and sometimes undervalued aspect of nonprofit management. At the Michigan Environmental Council, the headline-making work of advocating for better policies doesn’t happen but for a robust effort to maintain and grow our $2.5M annual budget. We’re fortunate to have the benefit of a $2.7M endowment that steadily delivers flexible funds to the organization each year. Established more than 15 years ago, the Pere Marquette Fund has barely seen its principal grow, but that must change. We face environmental crises—like PFAS contamination and global climate change—that we must have a dependable long-term source of funding to fight against.

Fortunately, the Environmental Council has a well-established and loyal donor base—some of whom helped build the Pere Marquette Fund years ago. As this group ages, they’re surely planning their inheritance legacies, but we have not been primed to work with them in this process.

The intern will work with the Environmental Council’s development team to design and launch a planned giving program. This will involve researching best practices and existing planned giving programs at other nonprofits, creating a planned giving case statement, constructing plan policies and procedures, brainstorming ideas for a “legacy society” within the Environmental Council’s donor base, developing marketing materials for the plan—print and online, designing prospect identification tools, and crafting a guide for plan implementation.

Project Possibility 3: Discovering the People’s Environmental Priorities


Policy Communications Intern


Morgan Butts, Marketing and Communications Director

The Michigan Environmental Council has carried forward a 41-year legacy of advancing public policy solutions at the Capitol through our deeply rooted connections, access, and expertise. Together, we are currently preparing for a year of continued success amidst major changes at the Capitol—in 2022 we will see all 38 senate seats, all 110 representative seats, and all constitutional offices up for election after a historic redistricting effort led by an independent commission for the very first time.

As we approach conversations around environmental issues with current and prospective lawmakers in this fluctuating political landscape, it’s more important now than ever that we’re armed with robust data that helps us understand the public’s interests and concerns regarding environmental policy and clarify how to best frame those issues for a variety of audiences. The Rackham intern will work closely with the communications team at the Environmental Council to synthesize existing public opinion research and guide new studies around key policy environmental priorities for our organization for 2022–2023. New studies could consist of focus groups with Environmental Council stakeholders, broad public opinion surveys, or other tactics as suggested by the intern.

The intern will then work with the communications team to develop key talking points for the policy team grounded in this data, help make language recommendations that we can pass on to lawmakers to use when talking about our environmental priorities in their respective districts, and conduct briefings for key environmental and political leaders on the findings.


All Rackham doctoral interns contribute 20 hours per week to their internship organization. The Environmental Council maintains a flexible work schedule for its employees, prioritizing professionalism and deliverables. The ideal candidate will be able to manage their own schedule in coordination with their supervisor, making themselves available for important meetings, finding appropriate office-based time for team building, and producing work during the hours that best meet the candidate’s schedule.

About the Organization

For more than 40 years, the Michigan Environmental Council and its 75 member organizations have driven the environmental agenda in Michigan. We develop innovative policy ideas; communicate them to key audiences in a compelling fashion; and engage our members, community leaders, and residents as effective local advocates for shared goals. By leading powerful, diverse collaborations, we inspire state leaders to adopt pioneering solutions that set a global standard for environmental leadership.

The council combines deep environmental policy expertise with close connections to key state and federal decision-makers, decades of experience getting things done in the political process, and an ability to rally broad and powerful alliances in support of reforms. With our member groups and partners in the public health and faith-based communities, MEC promotes public policies to ensure that Michigan families will enjoy clear waters, clean beaches, beautiful landscapes, and healthy communities for years to come.