We often hear from Internship Coordinators who want to expand their number of placement sites. Many do not consider including nonprofits because they do not see the nonprofit as a business and schools, students and parents link internships with gaining business experience. However, there are two strong reasons to expand internships experiences to include nonprofits.
First, according to a New York Times article that while “the overall economy has been expanding slowly…nonprofits have been growing at a breakneck pace (Anna Bernesek “For Nonprofits a Bigger Share of the Action,” NY Times March 9, 2014).
The article continues that “all told, roughly 1.6 million nonprofits employed 10 percent of the domestic work force in 2010 and accounted for 5 percent of G.D.P.” While many nonprofits are charities others include advocacy groups like the Sierra Club, or local historical societies and conservation groups, sports leagues, local theater groups, and health care services.
Some of this growth in nonprofits can be linked to demographics. As the population ages there is a higher demand for health care services. And the challenging economic climate over the past 5 has increased the needs of poorer Americans.
Second, while many young people may have been involved with a nonprofit in a community service program or as an individual volunteer, an internship gives them a greater opportunity to understand and experience the challenges of the nonprofit today and in the future. An internship at a nonprofit which is part of a school’s structured internship program allows the young person to be an intern rather than a volunteer. Interns will learn how the organization is funded, identify the target market, work on publicity campaigns, become involved in the strategic planning and learn to manage the many volunteers upon whom the nonprofit depends. With the right learning plan and structured experience an internship at a nonprofit is comparable to one at any well-known business.
Today’s young people want to make a difference. And doing an internship with a nonprofit will help them learn solid skills and at the same time enable them to make a significant contribution to their community.
It seems likely that nonprofits will continue to grow and play a vital role in the economy. And now is the time to widen our thinking and include nonprofits in our internship plans.