Career Coach #2: Kicking off your nonprofit sector career with an internship

Today’s blog post is from the OCS career coach for the nonprofit sector.  Fewer acronyms needed than for students looking at the International Organization sector, but greater emphasis on that summer internship. 

Last summer, over 40% of the Fletcher students who completed an internship did so in the nonprofit sector.  There are so many nonprofits (over one million in the U.S. alone), doing so many different things (ranging from CSR to education to health and nutrition), that there is sure to be an organization out there that matches your career interests.  In the current economy, many nonprofits are struggling with budget and staffing constraints and are therefore very open to hiring a Fletcher student who adds tangible and relevant skills (such as conducting a needs assessment, monitoring and evaluation, or grant writing), along with the passion for organization’s mission.  Another plus is that nonprofits are typically open to hiring graduate-level interns for field-based opportunities. Last summer, Fletcher students interned in over 50 countries ranging from Afghanistan to Malawi to Ecuador.

The challenge of completing a nonprofit internship is that they are all virtually unpaid.  Fortunately, though the total pool of funds may vary year-to-year, The Fletcher School offers a host of summer funding options to help defray some costs, including:

•    The Slawson Fellowship:  Each year three or four students receive $3500 to complete an internship in the nonprofit sector in a developing country.  The focus of this fellowship is to gain nonprofit management experience for a long-term career in the nonprofit sector.
•    The Blakeley Fellowship:  Each year 10 students receive $5000 to complete an internship in the nonprofit sector in a developing country.  The focus of this fellowship is to work in a nonprofit focused on microfinance, private sector development, public-private partnerships, small and medium sized enterprise development or NGO business development/project financing initiatives.
•    The Leir Fellowship:  In 2010, this fellowship awarded 17 students approximately $2800 to conduct a humanitarian assistance internship outside of the U.S.
•    Fletcher General Funding:  This fund is available to any student conducting an unpaid internship. In the summer of 2010, over 90 students received a general fund award and the average award amount was $1600.
•    Funding from outside sources:  Fletcher students who pursued nonprofit internships have been recipients of funds from outside sources, including the Harvard Program on Negotiation Fellowship and the Feinstein International Center Grants Program.

If you are considering a nonprofit internship, start the financial planning process early.  Some of the steps include creating a budget, researching the cost of living in the target country, and identifying inexpensive flight options.  Be on the lookout for the OCS summer funding information session, scheduled in the late January timeframe, to learn which funding options will be available for the summer when you’ll have your internship.

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