How We Made A Small Foundation Internship Work

By Michael V. Paul, Rita J. & Stanley H. Kaplan Family Foundation 

This is the second in a three-part series chronicling one foundation’s experience with having an intern. The first post was written by the foundation’s Executive Director. This second post is by the foundation’s Program Officer, and the third post will be by its current Intern. We hope the series will inspire other foundations to follow suit.

As one who is not far removed from the trials and tribulations of the modern day job search, I know how much an internship can help guide a jobseeker. I can attribute a nonprofit internship in college for guiding me to where I am today. Furthermore, as a Millennial at a small foundation, I yearn for the opportunity to develop professionally. For these reasons, and the many our Executive Director, Gali, explained in an earlier post, we decided to have an intern at our small foundation. Here’s how we did it.

First, we developed a framework to help navigate our intern search and key phases of the project. We determined our ideal candidate to be an undergraduate or recent graduate with: 

  • Little or no experience in the professional world, 
  • Potential for growth, and
  • Interest or curiosity in the nonprofit/philanthropic sector.

Along with these criteria, we hoped to find a person who would fit well in our office – someone with whom we could easily spend 8 hours each day.

Next, we drew up a job description to post on Idealist, a nonprofit job board. We considered the many tasks an intern might perform in our office and thought about how to translate them into a job post. We bunched these tasks into three areas: 

  • Project Tasks – Research current and potential granting areas, writing assignments, filing, and database projects. 
  • Learning Tasks – News research, trend and field analysis, resume/cover letter updating, and mock interviewing. 
  • Administrative Tasks – Management of day-to-day office systems. 

After whittling down our candidate pool to five, I conducted a series of interviews and ultimately selected a candidate who would be the best fit. 

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