Tuesday, March 15, 2011

It's Summer Intern Time!


While nonprofits who regularly use interns may already have their slots filled for the summer, many nonprofits are just beginning to think about the possibilities. Charitable Advisors would love to see more nonprofits use interns so we wanted to share what we learned from a short survey last summer and a seminar we co-hosted last fall with United Way and Indiana INTERnet. Many local colleges and universities will have Spring break in the next few weeks so you want to be ready to reach these students when they return.

Common Questions about Internships
  • What's the difference between an Internship and a Summer Job? - An internship is intended as a learning opportunity for the student, in addition to providing a contributing employee for the nonprofit. Positions where the primary responsibility is receptionist, data entry or file clerk, for example, provide little opportunity for learning. Camp and Youth Counselor roles are obviously summer jobs.  
  • Do we have to pay interns? - we have been told that 501c3 nonprofits are not obligated to pay interns. Still, most of these students have living or school expenses and an unpaid internship means they must also find a paying job. A third of the respondents to our employer survey thought that paid internships attracted stronger candidates. The Indiana InternNet report showed that $8-10/hr was pretty typical for nonprofits who paid by the hour. Stipends seems to range from a a few hundred dollars a month to a $1000 or more. Most internships seem to be in the 20-30 hour per week range.

Keys to a Successful Internship Opportunity

Last summer I took my first shot, since my big corporation days, at hiring a summer intern and it didn't work out very well - primarily because of me. I have since learned what experts suggest is needed for a good experience on both sides:
  • Opportunity to learn - as noted above, data entry is a job not an internship. While every internship will have some elements of routine and clerical tasks, there should still be several on-going opportunities to learn about the sector, the field, or a specific type of work.
  • Project-based - the student should be able to point to one or more projects they completed. They take an effort from concept to reality and you don't have to provide direction to them every minute.
  • Active and accessible supervision - though you likely won't be your intern's first place of employment, they will need active supervision and encouragement in their work.
  • A mentor - a terrific bonus is to have someone besides their immediate supervisor to meet with them several times during their tenure. This could be another department manager or even the CEO.       

Finding an Intern

The mechanics of the process are similar to filling any position - you identify some interested and capable candidates, interview the strongest, and negotiate your terms.
  • Do I have to coordinate through the university? - no, but universities can be a terrific resource. You can contact any college or university that your organization has a relationship with. If students will receive college credit, some coordination with a faculty member may be needed. In other cases, the internship is between you and the student directly. When you approach a university internship contact, ask how you would go about finding an intern - don't treat them like a staffing or temp agency who is there to fill your opening.
  • What other resources exist for finding an intern? - Two specific resources are:
    • Indiana INTERNnet at http://www.indianaintern.net, an on-line clearinghouse where nonprofits, and businesses, can post internship opportunities at no charge and students can post qualifications and apply as well. They added a nonprofit category to their database late last summer. 
    • IUPUI Solutions Center - while part of IUPUI, the specific role of the Solution Center is to connect nonprofits and businesses to the university - so they are a great resource for an organization that does not yet have a formal internship effort. They can even help to pay for your intern. Two resources they offer:  

1 comment:

Lisa Lambert Snodgrass said...

Liberal Arts Career Development at Purdue University would be happy to help promote all nonprofit internship opportunities to our student body. Feel free to contact me at cla-careers@purdue.edu

Lisa Lambert Snodgrass
Career Development Director
Purdue University
College of Liberal Arts