News & Views

A blog for those interested in what affects, motivates and drives the New York City Nonprofit Sector — written by CRE’s crackerjack consulting team. We hope you use this space to share your thoughts, ask questions and engage in conversations about our city, social justice and the nonprofit sector.

Using Nonprofit Interns and Volunteers Effectively

By Ximena Rua-Merkin, Senior Consultant - I recently had an opportunity to work with a youth-led organization that is managed by a bright group of college students, including four part-time employees in their early twenties. In working with this group of “twenty-somethings,” I was reminded of the incredible talent, passion, energy, and resourcefulness college students bring to the table. Unfortunately, nonprofit organizations often times miss the opportunity to engage young people in meaningful volunteer opportunities or leadership roles for fear of their abilities or lack of ideas on how to work with them.

As the summer begins, and college students who have not yet landed an internship knock on your door, we urge you to take advantage of their willingness to contribute their time and skills. The advantages of having a fresh and young perspective are invaluable. Here are some examples on how you may want to use their talents and skills:
  • College students could enhance your public relations or communications efforts by writing a series of stories about your work or profiling key staff and clients. They may also help inform your social media efforts. 
  • Students pursuing accounting or business degrees might be delighted to help your organization with bookkeeping tasks, compiling documents for audits, or developing fee structures for your programs.
  • If you have been considering expanding or diversifying your board, you might also benefit from recruiting a recent college grad whose education and extra curricular experience might be in line with your organization’s mission. You might not need to look far to find young people who have a demonstrated passion for community service, have served on student governance committees, or devoted their spring and summer breaks to performing community service projects.
As the job prospect for college students and recent grads doesn’t look encouraging, open your door to a bright young mind. You and your organization are likely to gain the most. Below are five tips for ensuring you have the right fit and the intern or volunteer experience is mutually beneficial.

1. Discuss with key people what the role and responsibilities of the intern/volunteer will be and develop a job description.
2. Conduct a recruitment and screening process that is as thorough as if you were looking to fill an entry-level position.
3. Develop an orientation or on boarding process that will help your new interns/volunteer clarify the mission of your organization and prepare them to assume their responsibilities.
4. Set a high level of performance expectations just as you would do for other staff members. It is also important to clarify from the start whether the internship may or may not lead to an employment opportunity at your agency.
5. While you might have made great effort in recruiting a highly qualified intern/volunteer, they will still need guidance, support, and supervision. Make sure someone from your agency can serve in a mentor/supervisor role.

Our HR Without HR blog series can provide you with additional tips and advice on staff supervision (whether paid or volunteer staff).

Here are some links to additional tips on volunteer management:
Idealist
National Service Resources
Energize Inc.
NYC Service
Urban Interns

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