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Intern Today, Fundraiser Tomorrow: Build Capacity Without Breaking the Bank

Today we are happy to feature guest blogger, Kristin Aslan, who currently serves as the director of the Nonprofit Pathway program at Red Rocks Community College. Kristin has more than twenty years of experience working in nonprofit leadership and higher education.

Whether you are preparing for year-end giving or fiscal year end, you may be thinking that an extra staff member would be pretty great right about now.  We know additional staff might not be in the budget, but there is a way to add a temporary team member that won’t break the bank – interns.

There are many well documented benefits to hosting internships.  Among them are increasing productivity, test-driving talent, establishing a recruitment pipeline, and adding a fresh perspective that may prove invaluable.  However, a successful internship experience takes some planning.

I have been talking to executive directors and hiring managers about their experiences with internships and have collected their top tips for a successful experience:

1 Create a job description. Think of the internship like any job in your organization.  Creating a job description for the internship will help to identify a set of duties and provide a common understanding of expectations between you and the intern.

2 Identify a dedicated supervisor.  Interns need supervision like any employee.  Taking the time to figure out who will supervise the intern and making sure they have the time to provide any necessary training, coordinate assignments, and mentorship will help ensure that everyone gets the most out of the experience. 

3 Conduct an interview.  Don’t miss an opportunity to assess fit.  Interviews send a message that there is an expectation of commitment to the position and provides the internship candidate with valuable interviewing practice, even if they don’t end up getting the position.

4 Provide training if needed.  A great deal can be accomplished and many problems can be avoided with an investment in up front training, even for short-term employees.  Think database clean up!

5 Offer a stipend or hourly rate.  This raises the bar for commitment and expectations while allowing for economically disadvantaged students to participate in a valuable educational experience.

Fall is a great time to connect with an area college or university about hosting a spring or summer intern.

Check out career, internship, and experiential learning centers. 

Many colleges have central offices that coordinate internships for a variety of academic programs.  Try searching the school’s website for career center, internships, or experiential learning. Contact information will generally be listed on the corresponding website and you can call or email directly with your request for information.

Contact certificate or degree programs.

Academic programs that prepare students for the specific kind of position you are trying to fill are a great source for interns.  For example, if you are seeking help with fundraising or program evaluation, look for academic programs in nonprofit management, philanthropy, or public service and contact the faculty or staff member listed.  New programs are often a good bet since they may be actively seeking new internship sites.

Don’t forget your local community colleges!  They prepare students for a variety of careers and have a big experiential focus.  Some even have programs specific to nonprofit management with required internships such as Red Rocks Community College’s Nonprofit Pathway, launched this fall in partnership with Community First Foundation.  Community colleges also enroll a diverse student body and may provide a great resource for diversifying the talent on your team.

Your intern of today could be your star fundraiser tomorrow! Use these best practices to build capacity for your fundraising team.


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