Using Interns to Make a Big Impact at Your Nonprofit

Intern and Mentor at a Computer

With fall fast approaching, college students are busy applying for fall internships before the new semester begins. Internships aren’t just a great way for students to get a taste of the real world. Nonprofits can also benefit by using these students to boost productivity in the office and achieve growth goals – but you must know how to properly leverage these students’ skills.

Instead of instructing interns to get coffee or answer phones, use the following advice to get the most out of your fall nonprofit interns:

Broaden the Usual Recruiting Pool

It’s common to look for interns majoring in social work, public policy, or even nonprofit management. While interns studying these disciplines can bring a lot to the table at your nonprofit, it’s important to recruit outside of these disciplines.

Consider interns studying finance and business. These students bring special skills to your organization, but normally tend to drift towards the corporate world. Since these business and finance majors are studying the latest theories and methods, they can bring new perspectives to the processes at your nonprofit.

Develop a Solid Onboarding System

Since internships normally only last a couple months, it’s critical to get interns spun up on the lay of the land quickly so they can be as productive as possible. Create an onboarding process that lets interns feel like they’re part of your nonprofit family quickly. Ensure they have all the equipment to do their job, including a computer with installed software, and a workstation.

You should also supply them with an organization chart featuring pictures of colleagues, so they can quickly feel comfortable collaborating with other team members. Additionally, create a development plan with expectations for the next week and the following months to inspire progress.

Lastly, be sure to check up on your intern. Many students are nervous about making a good impression and don’t want to ask too many questions, so give them an opportunity for one-on-one communication with supervisors.

Encourage Interns to Get Hands-On

Since most nonprofits can really use more people power and staff is often stretched thin, view your interns as productive members of the team from the start. Introduce interns to the software, programs, or technology they will need to make your nonprofit more efficient during the first week.

If the student is interested in finance and accounting, show him or her how to use your nonprofit accounting software. If the student is studying communications, ask him or her to write a press release about the nonprofit, instead of just watching a staff member do it. There might be mistakes along the way, but offering a hands-on experience will foster more learning and engagement that can ultimately benefit your business.

Stay Connected

In an ideal world, your superstar intern would graduate, then immediately join your nonprofit after graduation. That’s the best-case scenario, but it doesn’t always happen that way. Students may have more semesters to complete or want to pursue other opportunities outside the nonprofit world, but don’t lose track of your star interns because you may want to reach out to them in the future. Be sure to connect with them on professional networking sites like LinkedIn and offer to be a reference for them going forward. This can help boost the talent pool at your nonprofit for years to come.

Want to learn more about strengthening the health of your nonprofit? Read our 2018 Nonprofit Finance Study. See how nonprofit finance professionals are thinking about their organizations’ growth and how they’re best preparing for change.

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