Is a Nonprofit Internship the Best Choice for You?

Entering my junior year of college, I was shunning an opportunity many of my peers had already taken advantage of: an internship.

According to a 2015 survey conducted by The National Association of Colleges and Employers, nearly two-thirds of responding students said they had participated in an internship or co-op experience.

But not me! I was falling behind, and I needed to catch up quickly.

Admittedly having no interest in internships, I was content working as a camp counselor during my summers. Managing hundreds of youngsters in the Texas heat was taxing, but exceptionally rewarding.

In my eyes, the trade-off of tan lines for résumé lines wasn’t worth it if there wasn’t any eternal value, purpose or opportunity for growth in summer internship assignments. My advisors stressed the importance of interning, but I kept shying away from surrendering one last summer in the sun to the corporate world.

That is, until I started looking within the nonprofit sector.

Is A Nonprofit Internship Right For You?

I knew if I accepted an internship, I wanted responsibilities that challenged my worldview. I wanted to network with people who shared the same values as me. I wanted to contribute to a greater purpose. That’s how I knew a nonprofit internship was right for me.

But is a nonprofit internship right for you?

Like me, you may not know if you even want to do an internship, let alone in the nonprofit sector. So, I’ve compiled a few questions that can help you decide if a nonprofit internship is the best choice for you.

1. Do you want to be able to advocate for your interests and passions?

Not every organization’s mission will align with your interests. That’s OK. The intersection of career and calling isn’t easy to navigate.

Internships, however, offer you the perfect chance to discover the role your passions can play in your future.

I knew I wanted to advocate for children living in poverty through my work, so I made it a priority in my internship search.

Spending my summer here at Compassion, I’ve learned an internship that connects my passions makes work more than a list of responsibilities. I’m tackling assignments that focus on child advocacy and poverty alleviation. Things that I care about.

Does your dream job include fetching coffee and making copies? Or do you want to engage in work that you’re emotionally invested in and passionate about? If you want to back causes you care about during your internship, a nonprofit internship might be the right option for you.

2. Do you want to be challenged to expand your professional and personal horizons?

Knowing I wanted experiential learning opportunities that challenged my view of the world steered me to nonprofits.

Even though I’ve invested my time and talents into Compassion’s efforts, they’ve invested in my professional and personal growth, too.

Through my projects, I’m able to build my skill set, professional portfolio and awareness of nonprofit business practices. I’m able to see things from a globally conscious perspective. And I’m able to work with people who push me to stretch the way I think about poverty.

Hopefully, any quality internship will allow you to learn more about your field through applying your skills. But will it allow you to discover how your skills can transform a community? A nonprofit internship might be the right fit for you if you’re ready to stretch your abilities and perceptions in a professional environment.

3. Do you want to walk away knowing your work made a difference?

At the top of my internship must-have list was a role devoted to making a meaningful change in the world.

Each day I work to answer a call to action. Even though I’m just one person and my time here is limited, I’ll leave knowing I helped attain a higher good using my talents, strengths and education to serve others.

Do you want your internship to have a lasting impact?

A nonprofit internship will allow you to align with a meaningful mission and meet the needs of others. If you aren’t confident that you want this out of an internship experience, a nonprofit may not be for you.

Now, I’m no expert on internships. I wasn’t even sure an internship would be the right for me. Yet after asking myself the tough questions and experiencing what a nonprofit internship has to offer, I’m delighted I made the choice.

Now it’s your turn to choose.


Looking for a nonprofit internship? Check out Compassion International’s internship program!

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