When it comes to your internship experience, the goal is to gain insight and experience in a prospective field to complement what you’ve learned in the classroom. While some wish to gain corporate experience, others have their eye on a completely different sector: nonprofits.
If you’re interested in a future in the nonprofit sector or maybe even just interested in exploring a new opportunity, seeking out an internship at a nonprofit will provide you with a rewarding and beneficial experience. Many college students wonder what kind of steps they must take to gain an internship at a nonprofit organization.
Here are five tips for successfully landing your nonprofit internship:
1. Get Familiar. If you’re hoping to secure an internship at a nonprofit, it’s important you do your research. Spend time getting familiar with a variety of nonprofits, especially those in your area. Once you’ve gained enough insight on their structure and mission, you can then decide whether your own personal values and goals are a match to each organization.
You’ll likely begin your research by searching for nonprofits in you area, but also be sure to search for opportunities at those nonprofits. Some may have them listed directly on their website, but you should also look at online job and internship boards. InternMatch and Idealist are great job boards with comprehensive listings to help fuel your nonprofit internship search.
2. Volunteer. A simple and effective way to gain footing at your local nonprofit is to become a volunteer. This will not only provide you with inside knowledge about the organization, but also you’ll have the opportunity to build relationships with the individuals working there. Volunteering will show your interest and dedication in the mission of the nonprofit.
3. Build Your Nonprofit Network. Like most opportunities, finding an internship is often easier if you know people within the nonprofit sector. Don’t fret, just because you’re a student doesn’t mean you can’t grow your network. In fact, there are many ways to go about gaining valuable contacts.
Your college is likely to provide you with a variety of networking opportunities with alumni and organizations they have connections with — don’t miss out on any of these. Reaching out directly is also another simple and direct way to make contact with someone you’re interested in building a professional relationship with. Identify a few individuals working at the nonprofits you’re interested in interning for and reach out to them via email to show your interest in their success and also in the organization as a whole.
4. Schedule Informational Interviews. This type of interview is used to collect information about a specific job, industry, or company. An informational interview isn’t a job interview — it’s more like a strategic conversation with an individual in a career or at a company you find interesting. Attempt to set up an informational interview with a few individuals working in the nonprofit sector to gain some insight and potentially develop a network connection. Who knows, your name might end up on the top of their list for summer interns.