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by Vault Education Editors | November 11, 2010


A whole lot gets said about nonprofit internships, just as a whole lot gets said about, say, Mickey Mouse and oranges. As with both of those topics, some of those comments are obviously true (an orange is orange) and some are patently false (Mickey Mouse is a real mouse elaborately disguised in a rubber cartoon mouse costume). Comments in either category are easy enough to field, but how do you respond when you come up against a statement that sounds a little bogus, but you’re not sure? Think, oranges originated in West Africa, or Mickey Mouse always had gloves. And what if this happens while you and your friends are sitting around talking about nonprofit internships, as you do? Well, I’ll tell you what. You navigate to this very blog post, and you astound!

Mickey Mouse in New York City1. All nonprofit internships are unpaid.

Nope, nope, nope. Morris Arboretum pays its interns. So does Teach for America, the National Wildlife Federation and Habitat for Humanity. In fact, it is possible--and not even all that difficult--to find a paid nonprofit internship.

2. There aren’t as many perks as a paid internship at a bank or major corporation.

Au contraire! Perks abound at nonprofits for one, simple reason: a nonprofit always has someone they’re not paying--volunteers--who they want to reward and thank in other ways. And whether or not you’re paid as an intern, those rewards and thanks will be showered upon you, as well.

3. You have to be totally committed to the cause to make the internship worthwhile.

It’s nice to have warm and fuzzy feelings about the cause you’re supporting but it is not, by any stretch of the imagination, necessary. Imagine that your primary goal for the summer is to learn about marketing. Applying for a marketing position at a nonprofit would be an excellent plan because you would learn real, hands-on skills in marketing. Voila--a marketing internship and marketing experience!

4. A nonprofit internship is not a good resume-builder.

First of all, any internship is a good resume builder. Period. Glad we got that out of the way. Second of all, what makes an internship a great resume-builder is less a factor of the prestige of the program--though many nonprofits are just as prestigious as their for-profit counterparts--and more a factor of your responsibilities and accomplishments. Because nonprofits, in general, need more help than they can get, a nonprofit internship will likely give you opportunities from day one both to take on more and more responsibility and to have a genuine impact on the organization.

5. A nonprofit internship means spending your summer asking people to sign petitions on the street.

This is definitely not the norm for a nonprofit internship. I have personally never done anything along those lines, and I know of few nonprofit internships in which this is a major, or even minor, component. That said, just as there are some for-profit internships in which you spend every single day compiling Excel spreadsheets and sorting through mail, nonprofit internships of this description do exist. As with any position, it is important to get a good idea of your responsibilities beforehand.

--Written by Madison Priest



Filed Under: Education

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