When managing interns, half the battle is making sure you keep them busy and productive. The other half? Making the internship worthwhile, on both sides.
The most productive intern-employer relationships are ones that involve useful tasks, rather than busywork such as cleaning, making copies, and fetching coffee.
For nonprofits, it’s even more important to give your interns tasks that carry some weight and affect the success of your organization without taking any significant risks. You have limited funding and smaller margins to work with, so your interns have to go further than the average for-profit company intern.
I’m not suggesting that you put your interns in charge of your comms strategy, choosing new nonprofit software, or negotiating with major donors; far from it. Make them integral to your day-to-day achievements by tasking them with work that extends over their entire internship, and remains important for future hires.
Four tasks to maximize internship efficacy at your nonprofit
The four tasks listed below will maximize the efficacy of your nonprofit interns, giving them experience they can take to a future job and increasing overall productivity within your organization.
1. Social media posting
Millennials are the most adept, adult generation in terms of navigating and using social media. Pew Research Center found that 81% of adults aged 18 to 29 use Facebook, 64% use Instagram, and 40% have a Twitter account. Millennials are ahead in every major social media platform with the exception of LinkedIn, and even then they’re only surpassed by users aged 30 to 49.
Your interns are perfectly equipped to work with you in your social media efforts, from posting statuses, links, images, and videos, to helping you find new content types for your social strategy.
This isn’t busywork, either. As recently as 2017, Forbes found that social media marketing remains underrated and underutilized in the general market:
Business owners and marketers frequently treat it as a second thought—something for an intern to handle, rather than a strategically deep mode of building your reputation and attracting new traffic. Some have even abandoned the idea altogether, refusing to spend any time or money on a strategy that nets a positive ROI for up to 92% of businesses that use it.
That same Forbes piece is a great reminder that interns shouldn’t develop or oversee your social media strategy, but rather help your marketing department roll it out and maintain it.
If your nonprofit interns are new to posting on behalf of an organization—they have the platform know-how, but don’t know the ins and outs of professional social media campaigns—have them check out these guides before they get started:
- How to Use Social Media to Engage and Recruit Nonprofit Volunteers
- 3 Tips to Improve Your Nonprofit Social Media Marketing Campaigns
- How to Boost Followers on Twitter for Nonprofits
- How to Use Instagram for Nonprofits
2. Organizing and entering data
Entering data into spreadsheets or Salesforce isn’t the most exciting task, but gaining experience with this type of program is a great resume booster for any nonprofit intern. Logging donor data or volunteer information helps your interns learn exactly what type of information a nonprofit should collect when fundraising, building a volunteer base, or maintaining organization inventory (volunteer supplies, store materials, etc).
It’s important to remember that this task might not be right for every intern who comes your way. Survey your interns on their strengths and weaknesses, and provide training where necessary.
Once you’ve determined which interns are best for the job, have them read these pieces on data entry best practices:
3. Making scripted calls
Cold calling is the perfect task for an intern. Not only are you knocking out a time-consuming task, but you’re also teaching your interns better communication skills. This task includes fundraising calls, issue-based survey calls, event attendee calls, and donor “thank you” calls.
While cold calling isn’t the most exciting task for an intern, you can always incentivize them with prizes for results such as highest number of calls made, donations secured, or event attendees confirmed. If you only have one intern, set call goals for them to reach and reward them when those goals are achieved.
Make sure your call scripts ask yes or no questions, are attached to FAQ sheets, and have a specified process in case interns find themselves in a pinch, or are asked questions they can’t answer.
Use this guide to help put your call scripts together.
4. Write blog posts or other basic content
Most often, your interns are fresh out of college or in the middle of their journey through university. They’re used to writing around the clock in one form or another, making them ideal for churning out blog posts in short time frames.
Make a list of possible topic types, keeping them lighter and out of the weeds in terms of industry know-how. Options include listicles, trends tracking, and stats pieces.
TDS Business has a great guide on coaching your interns to write amazing blog posts while working for your organization. Have your interns read these 16 tips for beginner writers before they get started, and peruse our list of recommended nonprofit blogs for topic inspiration.
Other tips for managing nonprofit interns
Capterra’s nonprofit blog is full of resources to aid your hiring and management of nonprofit interns: