I have always been a fan of internships. I had several internships in college and remember them fondly. They exposed me to the “real world” and had a profound impact on my professional direction.
So it was no surprise that about a year ago, when my program officer, Michael, and I started thinking of ways we could add value to our foundation, we thought about creating an internship.
We came up with the following goals for our internship:
- Invigorate our two-person staff by having more hands on deck to get work done and adding a fresh perspective to our mix.
- Provide professional development opportunities for staff.
- Offer an undergraduate or recent college graduate professional skills and guidance, thereby doing our part to ameliorate the unemployment problem of the next generation.
- Add a bit of transparency to philanthropy by opening our foundation to a “newbie” potentially inspiring the next generation to pursue a career in the nonprofit sector.
We’ve had two interns now, and from my perspective, I can say the experience has borne encouraging results:
- Our intern helped us get things done, freeing up staff to do more/different work. Following a bit of up-front training, our intern took over many of the administrative tasks of our office. This, in turn, freed staff up to go on additional site visits and read/think more deeply about our grantmaking.
- The internship program provided staff with formative leadership development. Michael oversaw the entire process of framing and implementing the internship. This was the first time he got to sift through a pile of resumes and think like a manager about organizational fit; the first time he got to conduct an interview; the first time he trained a new employee; etc. He has grown tremendously as a result.
- We helped our interns gain practical professional skills, preparing them for future careers. We coached both of our interns on softer skills (professional etiquette and dress, navigating office politics, business writing, etc.) and spent time teaching them about the nonprofit sector. As a result, they have been inspired and are better equipped to pursue a career in the nonprofit sector.
This experience has turned out to be a win-win-win. In future posts you will hear from Michael about how he set up the internship and from our most recent intern, Victoria, about the impact it had on her. Overall, I highly recommend it to my philanthropic colleagues.
What internships have you had and how did they impact your professional path?
Gali Cooks is executive director of the Rita J. & Stanley H. Kaplan Family Foundation and an Exponent Philanthropy board member.