Will Work for Free: The Value of Interns to a Nonprofit Organization

Posted by Rori C. Imhof – BLS Intern

BLS Internship Experience
Here I am at the Pink Horse Shoe Gala and Silent Auction in April 2012

This past winter I had the opportunity to intern for a nonprofit organization located in Chester County, PA.  The organization, Horse Power for Life, offers a 16-week therapeutic riding program for cancer patients and their families.  I was hired through West Chester University’s (WCU) fall career fair as a marketing intern. Since I am a double major in Accounting and Marketing at West Chester, I thought it would be beneficial for me to gain real world experience through internships in both of my majors.

My main responsibilities throughout the course of the 6-month internship were focused around assisting the President of the organization plan the annual Pink Horse Shoe Gala and Silent Auction in April, which funds the organization for the entire year.  No pressure, right? In a typical week, I would make phone calls and visit businesses in the community in attempts to solicit donations that could be auctioned off the night of the event.  Donations included rounds of golf, restaurant and salon gift certificates, and artwork to name a few.  The experience as an intern opened my eyes to the amount of work required in running a small nonprofit organization.

The Value of an Intern to Nonprofits

Nonprofits have enough to worry about when it comes to funding and running the organization.  The greatest benefit in hiring an intern is it does not need to cost anything at all.  That’s right, some of us will work for free! Although I received a small bonus at the end of my internship, I went into the experience with the expectation that I was gaining knowledge, earning credits at WCU, and helping out with a great organization; that was all the compensation I needed.

Another great benefit for nonprofits is that an intern can help alleviate the stress on the staff of the organization.  Since Horse Power for Life is a very small nonprofit, and the president is the only full-time employee (although still unpaid) of the business side of the organization, every task I accomplished was one less the president need to do herself.

Finally, the more people who get involved with a nonprofit organization, the larger its network will grow.  The opportunities are endless when it comes to new connections that can be made with businesses willing to donate or to volunteers willing to help through new interns each year.

Where to Look

College campuses across the nation are filled with students eager to learn hands-on and gain experience in virtually every field of study imaginable.  Getting involved with a university’s career development center is a great way to create awareness about your organization and internships you provide.  Universities local to Belfint, Lyons & Shuman including , West Chester UniversityUniversity of Delaware and Goldey-Beacom College, all have career centers and career fairs that provide opportunities to meet with and recruit students.

As for me, I was very honored to have experienced an internship with a nonprofit and know that I will be able to take that experience and relate it to my current accounting internship with Belfint, Lyons & Shuman.

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