Interning for a Nonprofit: What to Look For & How to Apply

From our Nonprofit Services Intern, Olivia Felland

Hi, Council friends!

My name is Olivia, and I am a recent graduate of Hamline University, where I studied history, global studies, and nonprofit management. You might remember me from my intern introduction blog post, where I shared my excitement for joining the Charities Review Council’s team and eagerness to learn. One of the things that I’ve had the opportunity to learn more about is online communications, which has included social media and blog posts.

I’m now at the end of my internship experience, and I thought it would be fun to write a blog post all about nonprofit internships. Why? Well, with my experience in internship logistics from the Minnesota History Society, additional learnings from Charities Review Council, and the fact that Charities Review Council is hiring for a new intern, this seemed like the perfect way to share what I’ve learned with others while wrapping up my internship experience. So, if you’re interested in learning more about nonprofit internships, this post is for you!

Why should I intern for a nonprofit?

Besides the feel-good benefits of supporting an awesome nonprofit cause, interning provided me the opportunity to align my personal values with my work. As a nonprofit management minor, I’ve learned a ton about nonprofits, including their unique structure, how they’re run, and the impact they have on the community. Through my various internships, I’ve gained on-the-job experience that I never could have learned from my coursework. For me, internships provided an outlet for additional professional development, values alignment, and a step towards my long-term career aspirations.

How do I decide which nonprofit internship to apply for?

Great question! With so many great causes out there, it can be hard to narrow down your search. One thing I kept in mind was my personal interests, values, and long-term goals. I plan to work in the nonprofit sector, so who better to learn about nonprofits from than the Charities Review Council!

Perhaps your goals are different than mine. Maybe you’re interested in communications or marketing. If that’s the case, try looking for nonprofits that need communications support (e.g. social media, blogs, fundraising, annual reports, etc.). Or, maybe you’re passionate about psychology or mental health. There are so many great nonprofits working in the mental health field that you could lookup — organizations like Lee Carlson Center for Mental Health & Well-Being, Touchstone Mental Health, and NAMI Minnesota, to name a few. Whatever your educational background is, there’s likely a nonprofit out there that could benefit from your experience and vice versa. 

Where can I find internship opportunities?

Check out nonprofit job boards in Minnesota, like pages from Minnesota Council of NonprofitsPollen Midwest, and Springboard for the Arts. As many nonprofits have continued working remotely through COVID-19, you may also consider searching for remote positions outside of the state. It’s a great opportunity to expand your network.

Generally, if you’re a college student, your school will have a job postings site, like HandshakeSome colleges even provide extra support for their students in pursuit of internships. Connect with your advisor to see what resources are available to you both on and off-campus.

Are nonprofit internships paid?

There is a common misbelief that all internships are unpaid (especially nonprofit internships). However, that isn’t always the case. In fact, more and more nonprofit organizations are pushing to pay their interns. Earlier this year, in an effort to increase salary transparency and equitable hiring practices, The Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, Pollen, and Springboard for the Arts issued a joint statement that read “The Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, Pollen, and Springboard for the Arts are pleased to announce that as of July 21, all job postings across their job boards must include compensation information…” This includes calling out internships that are paid versus unpaid! 

How do I prepare for internship interviews, especially those in a remote setting?

I’ve found it helpful to prepare notes using the internship job description and common interview questions. In a virtual setting, you can easily reference your notes if you find yourself drawing a blank or needing a good example of your experience. 

I also think it’s a good idea to come with a few questions of your own. Interviewing is just as much about understanding if the organization is a good fit for you, as it is understanding if you’re a good fit for the organization. One of my favorite questions is, “What do you enjoy most about your job and/or working here?” 

What should I consider before accepting an internship offer?

  • Does this internship fit with my schedule? Would I be able to meet the schedule requirements?
  • How does this internship match my interests, long-term goals, and personal values? 
  • Does it fit with the skills I have or want to gain
  • What are the benefits? What is the pay? If it’s not paid, is that realistic for my budget, or can I find a scholarship through my school? 

In Part Two, I’ll share my experience as a Nonprofit Services Intern at Charities Review Council. Don’t miss a post! Subscribe to our e-newsletter today. 

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