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Monday, June 1, 2020

How to get an Internship at a Nonprofit


There’s no denying that the job market is a little scary right now with the unemployment rate almost at 15% in the United States. Chances are you know someone who received an amazing full-time or internship offer months ago, but it ended up being rescinded due to the coronavirus pandemic. Though unfortunate, it’s no surprise companies had to ensure the safety of their employees and the health of their organization first. 

If you’re in the market for an internship, don’t worry. Recruiters know and understand that this is a unique time. Therefore, being strategic and thoughtful in how you approach your job search is everything. Aimless scrolling on LinkedIn, searching for opportunities. has probably produced minimal results, which is why I’d like to share some tips on how to stand out. This post is meant to help you get to the top of the pile of resumes facing nonprofit hiring managers, but these tips are universally applicable. 

Why work at a nonprofit?
Working for a nonprofit is empowering. Your help in moving the nonprofit’s mission forward has a major impact on the cause area you’re embedded in. The work nonprofits do couldn’t exist without you.  

Nonprofits are companies, too. And for the most part, they run lean like startups -- teams are smaller, more collaborative, and you get to wear multiple hats. In my opinion, this is an intern’s dream because it grounds you in a position to absorb as much as possible, helping you secure the experience, and confidence to get a full-time offer down the road. Not to mention, you receive amazing opportunities to get noticed by influential philanthropists like we did here


How to stand out:
I’d like to pass on a few tips I learned after asking a few questions to Julia, our Human Resources and Operations Manager.
What do you look for on a resume? Julia shared that the number #1 thing she looks for is passion. You can showcase your passion through the types of courses you take and the extracurriculars you’re involved in. Leadership positions in debate clubs, student government, or being on philanthropic councils in Greek life stand out and demonstrate your passion for being involved in causes you care about.  
Next, Julia said not to worry about your GPA or major when applying for internships. GPA doesn’t capture your skill sets and skills are acquired in more than one way. At Charity Navigator, we want to be as inclusive as possible, so GPA and major aren’t deciding factors for us. We want to learn how you taught yourself how to code or took a free online class in grant-writing. Yet, some companies do have a minimum GPA, so keep a lookout for those job posts. 
Should interns include a cover letter?
In short, yes. Cover letters not only show your interest in a company, but they give you the opportunity to explain anything that needs explaining. Don’t have nonprofit experience? Say that, and then expand on why working at a nonprofit will help catapult you into your career. But be specific. If you are applying for a grant-writing internship, explicitly state what you hope to learn and gain from that internship. Usually, internships are project-based, which will help the hiring manager craft a project tailored to you and your needs. Simply, cover letters should introduce who you are, why you’re interested in this position and company, and where you see yourself going and how this internship will help you get there. One final tip, keep it short. One page should be enough for you to capture everything. 

Action Items:
1. Locate and research nonprofits you’re interested in. Visit employment websites such as, LinkedIn, Indeed, Glassdoor, and of course, Idealist.
2. Reach out to current employees and past interns for informational calls.
3. Tidy up your resume and apply
It’s important to remember that this will not be a defining moment in your career. If at first you don’t succeed, keep applying and keep networking. 

Giana recently graduated from Columbia University with a BA in English. Her past internship experiences were as a Communications intern with Braze, a Hybrid Cloud Marketing intern at IBM, and a Content Marketing intern at a startup called Clare. She is currently the Marketing and Communications Assistant at Charity Navigator. If you have any questions on how to get an internship, she can be reached at glozano@charitynavigator.org

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