The engine that drives any business, whether in the private sector or the nonprofit world, is a diverse staff with a range of talents and expertise. Any nonprofit consulting firm will advise that maintaining veteran employees while injecting a fresh perspective with newer employees is critical in keeping that engine a well-oiled machine.
One important way that organizations can balance the depth of employees is to create an internship program that boosts staff numbers in the short term but also has the potential to create long-term employees. Forming partnerships with local as well as regional colleges and universities is the perfect place to start.
Define Your Needs
Analyze your programs and determine where gaps exist. An intern could potentially fill those gaps to enable programs to function at full capacity. Nonprofit organizations have an enormous breadth of departments and programs that would be conducive to aligning interns with areas that need attention that staff members can’t create or complete.
Simple observations aren’t enough. Your numbers will tell a more comprehensive story. Are you falling short of fundraising goals? Maybe an intern in your development and marketing departments could provide an added benefit to securing more dollars. Are clients missing out on direct services because there just aren’t enough employees to provide assistance to those who need it? Project-specific interns can assist seasoned program specialists, ensuring that no one falls through the cracks.
And always ask your staff what they need. They are often spread too thin and know where problem areas could benefit from an extra hands on deck.
Colleges and universities in your area can provide a wealth of potential intern candidates that match your organization’s needs for augmenting services as well as adding to the depth of expertise on staff.
Students and faculty often look for internship opportunities for specific fields and programs. Depending on the school, look for campus departments like career centers whose purpose is to match students with local businesses and nonprofit organizations in order to fill academic requirements.
It may also be helpful to contact college deans, department chairs, or professors to discuss what you have available or what can possibly be created to not only fill gaps in staff and programs but to also provide a rich, experiential opportunity.
Make sure you convey the benefits of establishing this partnership. Students will gain real-world workplace experience in their fields and will be actively contributing to helping their community. Colleges and universities will improve their position in the community by aligning with nonprofit organizations whose missions are defined by giving back to improve people’s lives. And they improve their track record of turning students into employed graduates.
Thinking Outside the Internship Box
Contemplate the areas of study with which to identify potential interns in. The field of social work is an obvious place to start because many graduates will gravitate to direct services provided by many nonprofits. But there are also other academic majors to consider as possibilities in establishing an internship program.
• Communications: College students are tech-savvy when it comes to online platforms. A communications major intern could help to build your online presence across multiple social media platforms or help with other traditional media like writing press releases.
• Advertising and Marketing: Interns from these fields can bring cutting-edge knowledge about building your brand and conveying the purpose of your mission across a variety of media channels.
• Computer Science: Your team has had ideas for a database that links programs or a system that tracks numbers for grants compliance, but the expense has prevented this from going beyond a dream. Interns with software creation skills could help maximize efficiency with their ability to design programs and applications.
Many in nonprofit leadership seek advice from experts in nonprofit consulting about how to conserve or stretch funding while remaining a viable source of assistance in their community. Whether your nonprofit is looking to fill in gaps for the long term or short, we believe that internships can be a great way to help with that, while also providing the often-needed experience that new grads need when finishing up school. For help navigating the internship space, or to learn about other cost sharing employment strategies, contact KM Clark Consulting.