Imagine, you have just received two offers for different internships, one is a non-profit in the field that you are interested in and the other is a little bit of a stretch, but here’s the kicker, the one you really wanted isn’t a paid internship. What do you do? Do you pick the other one because you’re a college student and you need money? Or do you pick the non-profit in your field that will offer you valuable experience and just eat ramen for the time being?
Well I’m here to tell you that interning at a non-profit is a valuable experience and may even have more benefits than interning for a large company.
Before I start explaining the benefits of a non-profit internship it’s important to do the research on the organization and make sure you will get the most out of it. You also need to make sure that you should/shouldn’t be getting paid. Blue Avocado, a magazine of American Nonprofits explains when interns do not need to be paid minimum wage. It’s important to understand the internship description.
At my non-profit internship through Special Olympics Wisconsin my director took the time to help me with certain questions I had. One time I even needed help with the printer, talk about a “duh” moment.
She took the time to explain the work that we were doing. For example, creating a database to send out mailing packets using data from the past three years of top fundraisers. I never would have known to do this! I really felt like she cared about what I was learning through this experience.
The office where my internship took place only has two employees. My director and then her coworker, the Regional Director of Athletics. Talk about a small office! However, when we would have committee meetings at the office, the place fills up and it becomes chaotic. However, meeting all of the committee members has been a great networking experience. I’ve gotten to know them and they were interested in my college career and my plans post-graduation.
My internship helped me explore a couple different career paths. Not only was I assisting in planning the Polar Plunge, but I also had some marketing experience. According to the Eye of the Intern blog because there are so few staff members, interns have the opportunity to try a range of projects. Which is great experience!
Finally, I think the greatest benefit to interning for a non-profit is the self-satisfaction of helping people in the community. The work I am doing is benefiting thousands of athletes with special needs. Days in the office can be challenging and to feel the magic of helping others inspires me to do all that I can.
So even though you may be eating ramen for weeks on end, take that non-profit internship. Ask questions, network with professionals in the industry, and remember that you are gaining experience by making a difference.