Archive | December, 2015

Nonprofit internships – paid or unpaid?

23 Dec





Should nonprofit interns be paid?

I read a good article in the NPQ about an interesting debate on whether or not interns at nonprofits organizations should be paid. Ideally, everyone should get paid for a job well done.  Realistically, nonprofits significantly rely on free help from volunteers and interns to accomplish the mission.  According to the article:

Interns are usually young and comparatively unskilled persons undergoing a period of apprenticeship for the purpose of learning an important life or work skill.

Agreed. I would welcome my interns and spent allotta time training them so they could do a good job for us. It was always sad to see them go back to their studies. I relied on my interns so much that I would always try to convince them that they should stay with me and not go back to school. I could teach them everything they needed to know about life. Once upon a time my summer intern from UPenn almost believed me but her mom thought I was trying to brainwash her and she had to ‘leave early for a family situation’. Sad.

Were my walkathon interns always paid? Sometimes Yes and sometimes No.


When I was working for the Walk for Hunger, we had a relationship with the co-op program at a local university. The university would pay a stipend to a student if they took a co-op with one of the approved nonprofits in the area. Luckily, we were one of them and we were able to have a student join us full-time for a few months. We had the student lead the volunteer recruitment for the event. I liked that we could give the student a specific task that they could see through from beginning to end.  Recruiting and training 2,000 volunteers was a HUGE job and having the co-op allowed us to focus on team recruitment.

These co-ops earned their stipend (and then some!) and were crucial to the success of the walk.

While working on the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk, I would have both paid and unpaid interns. Since we raised over $3M each year, we allocated small budget for an intern to help us with the donated snacks and beverages for the finish line. This was always a summer internship and for some reason it was a pretty competitive gig. We would receive upwards of 100 applications for the opportunity to be part of our crazy train.

We would also have a few high school students that we could not pay and they would receive a glowing recommendation letter for their college applications as compensation.

It is crucial that a high percentage of the fundraising dollar go toward the mission. Headcount can be a detriment to that percentage. Nonprofits rely on volunteers, interns and co-ops to work toward that goal.  We appreciate all you do to contribute to the success of the event!