MacArthur Foundation

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is one of the nation's largest independent foundations. The Foundation supports creative people, effective institutions, and influential networks building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. MacArthur is placing a few big bets that truly significant progress is possible on some of the world’s most pressing social challenges, including over-incarcerationglobal climate changenuclear risk, and significantly increasing financial capital for the social sector. In addition to the MacArthur Fellows Program, and our competition for a single $100 million grant, the Foundation continues its historic commitments to the role of journalism in a responsible and responsive democracy, as well as the strength and vitality of our headquarters city, Chicago. More information is at

The intern will join the Foundation’s Communications team, which seeks to enhance the impact of MacArthur’s grantmaking by –

  • Drawing attention to and sharing information about the fields in which MacArthur is engaged;
  • Spotlighting grantees; and
  • Ensuring transparency about Foundation grantmaking and operations.

The team achieves these objectives by employing diverse communications tactics, including media relations, social media, web content, live events, digital events, publications, and support for MacArthur staff and grantees.

The intern will balance short- and long-term projects.  Day-to-day work will include –

  • Researching and drafting briefs and stories for the Foundation’s website about the work of our grantees;
  • Identifying and summarizing media coverage;
  • Helping to plan and staff public events;
  • Researching media outlets and building media lists; and
  • Other responsibilities, as directed.

The Director’s Intern will be one of two interns responsible for organizing day-long briefings for interns in the greater Chicago-area. S/he is also assigned one or more long-term projects; past examples include –

  • Researching news coverage of MacArthur Fellows and other MacArthur grantees;
  • Researching annual reports of other foundations and nonprofits; and
  • Examining how other foundations and nonprofits use social media.

The internship is designed to be a substantive learning experience, so the intern will join Communications team meetings and staff events and attend in-house briefings by grantees, staff, and other practitioners.

The internship is not focused on any one social issue or grantmaking generally. 

Successful candidates will have a demonstrated interest in communications, journalism, public relations, new media, and/or public affairs.  Strong written and oral communication skills, outstanding organizational abilities, and attention to detail are essential. Experience with social media, photography, or video is a plus.
Candidates should explaining their interest and proposed schedule (indicating start and end dates) in their statement of interest. Links to additional materials, such as a website or digital portfolio, are also welcome. Finalists will be asked submit two writing samples of no longer than two pages each.

2017 Intern Reflection: 

Organize briefings for Chicago Congressional interns; research and write content for the Foundation's website; assist with Foundation events for the press, public, and policymakers; and attend in-house briefings and meetings on a range of issues (often with outside speakers) to learn more about the Foundation and key areas of work.Director's interns should possess strong written and oral communication skills, outstanding organizational abilities, and an interest in the work of the philanthropic sector (and preferably some of the specific issue areas funded by MacArthur).  Experience and interest in new media is a plus.

Working with the Communications team at the MacArthur Foundation has been a great way to spend the summer. As the voice in many respects of the whole Foundation, we work to enhance the profile of the Foundation as well as that of MacArthur's grantees and its Fellows (also known as 'geniuses' in the mainstream media). MacArthur staff are great, the office culture - although intensive when deadlines close in - is very laid back and helpful. As a Communications intern, tasks include website content management, research on the MacArthur Fellows, and event planning.

The workload is reasonable and varies in intensity but balances out overall. This summer, MacArthur's offices were being renovated, so the annual Government and Nonprofit Intern Briefing (two briefings held since 2007 when Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) asked the Foundation to explain their work), had to be conducted off-site. This provided logistical and timing challenges, but support from all the departments helped make it a success. I, along with a co-intern from the University of Chicago, had to update the invite lists, contact various government and nonprofit offices, coordinate speakers and presentation topics, find venue and good catering services - all towards our biggest intern briefing yet, with 90+ attendees to each briefing. Many skills needed for this - and for work here in general - I got from extracurriculars at Harvard and classes, especially those that require many essays. Overall, the resources, events, briefings, and lunches within MacArthur helped keep all the interns up-to-date on the world of philanthropy and fosters a sense of community within the Foundation.

Edgard Gonzalez '19 

2016 Intern Reflection:

As a Communications Intern at the MacArthur Foundation, I was exposed to the wide ranging and very meaningful work of the Foundation. My personal responsibilities ranged from helping to build strategy for MacArthur's social media presence and analyzing media coverage of MacArthur's grant-giving in various cities to creating outreach plans for various initiatives and planning two briefings for Chicago-area interns. I tended to have a large degree of independence, for better at times and for worse at others, and I had an opportunity to share what sorts of issues interested me so that I could work on projects related to the topics.  

More important than my own work, however, were all the learning opportunities I had at the Foundation. On a day-to-day level, the office is full of curious people talking about the most current and important topics related to politics, science, and arts. On a more formal level,I had the opportunity to attend sessions on social innovation in Sub-Saharan Africa; climate challenges in China; police accountability in Chicago; and education and housing policy across America. Working at MacArthur was also an incredible opportunity to learn about the range of non-profits in the world and the work that many of them do. I have left the summer feeling like I have learned so much about the world and how I want to contribute to it. 

James Piltch '17

2015 Intern Reflection:

Working with the Public Affairs team at the MacArthur Foundation has allowed me a unique perspective on both MacArthur's work and on nonprofit work in general. As a public affairs intern, I am responsible for a variety of tasks, from website content management to event planning to research on former MacArthur Fellows, or recipients of MacArthur's "genius" grants. Because public affairs collaborates with every program area in the Foundation, I have been able to learn about and witness the exciting developments within all the areas that MacArthur funds. Recently I collaborated with the Criminal Justice grantmaking team to organize a sold-out event on over-incarceration in America, and in the coming weeks I will be running the Foundation's annual briefings for Chicago interns.

Working at a prominent foundation both within the U.S. and internationally, I've found my time at the Foundation to be inspiring and rewarding. MacArthur is a leader in philanthropy, and the people here strive to  support creative people and institutions in order to build a more just, peace, and verdant world. Meeting the other summer interns here and attending intern-oriented introduction programs have been the highlights of my internship so far. I especially value the numerous lunches and events that the Foundation organizes with the goal of keeping everybody in the Foundation, including the interns, informed and educated about the work the Foundation is doing and how it intersect with global trends in our areas of grantmaking.

Ashley Zhou '17

Chicago, IL
Advocacy/Policy, Communications/Press, Research