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:
National Service Resources
Energize Inc.
NYC Service
Urban Interns

Find us on:  CRE on Twitter CRE on Facebook  

News and Views


nonprofit mergers Albany leadership Volunteers Government News postponed event Mark Light rockaways media Nonprofit Quarterly New York Community Trust queens CRE Tips Barbara Turk Alliance for Nonprofit Management Fran Barrett Board of Directors Michael Hickey Useful Links bookkeeping Harvard Kennedy School Data Starved fundraising evaluation record keeping hard times National and Community Service computers Rona Taylor Maria Mottola Jeff Ballow 30th Anniversary I.T. without I.T. Valyrie Laedlein Funding Updates HR Without HR United Way of NYC RFP generative civic engagement Ero Gray Sector Research Bill Ryan Karen Erdos board and staff relations staff Rashid Littlejohn House Party Fran's Corner NYS Budget Stanford Social Innovation Review grantmakers for effective organizations Pamela Dicent Data CRE News arts National Committee of Responsive Philanthropy website, resources, announcements Client News HIV/AIDS services providers board leadership cre handling the unexpected Needs Assessment Governance as Leadership community New York Foundation guest blogger tips New York City Government Pavitra Menon Nonprofit Sustainability Holly Delany Cole NYCCCOC Development Survey nonprofit accountability Peter Block Jean Lobell nonprofit leaders executive transition proposal writing Randall Quan Louisa Hackett CRE Executive Search Philanthropic Collaborative internal controls Ximena Rua-Merkin MAC AIDS Fund Advocacy accountability collaborations Barbara Blumenthal capacity building jobs Nonprofit News Mohan Sikka Government Updates Huffington Post case statement Beth Kobliner President Obama executive foundations harvard business school Daring to Lead New York IT What is Core? Nonprofit Tools mergers Nonprofit nonprofit start-ups New York Times Neighborhood Based Capacity Building Initiative Hurricane Sandy government Coaching announcment nonprofit management lower Manhattan strategic alliances CRE POV nonprofit ownership Interns Featured Items grantmakers publications