Nonprofit internships: They may not pay, but they pay off

by Maria Lemakis*

According to Wikipedia, a most reliable source cited by journalists everywhere, a nonprofit organization is an organization that uses surplus revenues to achieve its goals rather than distributing them as profit or dividends.

Call me naïve, but before my internship at Parents as Teachers, I thought “nonprofit” meant that an organization could not engage in activities that were geared toward providing surplus revenue and therefore, profit.  Little did I know how little I knew!   Here’s what I found out this summer:

  1. Nonprofit internships make an indecisive person more indecisive.  I’m referring to myself when I say “an indecisive person.”  Because nonprofits do not have the resources to hire many positions that a for-profit organization would, a nonprofit employee wears many hats.  So does an intern.  I got to dip my toes in public relations work, social media, multimedia promotion, market research, marketing plan development, interviewing and writing, and Spanish-to-English translation—all in one summer as a marketing communications intern at Parents as Teachers.  Don’t ask me what I want to do with my majors—business and journalism—because now I have further developed experience in both, and unfortunately, I like both.
  1. Nonprofit internships offer meaningful and important assignments.  Don’t put it past your internship supervisor to charge you with coming up with the new organizational structure for the entire headquarters of your organization.  OK, maybe I wasn’t a part of that meaningful project at Parents as Teachers.  But I was privileged with the responsibility of leading and formulating a full marketing plan for one of their training products; it’s a plan that will hopefully be implemented by Parents as Teachers.  I feel like I contributed important work to the organization, work that can eventually lead to a positive impact on families and children.
  1. Nonprofit internships make you feel selfish and fat.  Relax, I mean this in a good way!  Every piece of work that is done at Parents as Teachers is done with the goal of providing professionals with the resources they need to help parents with the development of their young children.  The work they do at the organization is for the families and kids; it’s not to make bonuses and six-figure salaries, like I always thought would be one of my main goals when I am in the workforce.  I’m starting to think it would be a good idea to change that.  A more selfless goal makes for a more meaningful work experience.

On another note, forget the Insanity or P90x workouts you’ve been diligently hacking out this summer; they’ll be cancelled out by sweet people in your organization bringing in sweet treats like Ray’s donuts and coffee cake.  It’s an off day when there’s no half-eaten community container of goodies in the kitchen.  I can’t decide if this was my favorite or least favorite part of the internship…

No matter how many pounds I gained interning at Parents as Teachers, I am positive I gained much more in experience, connections and knowledge.  I can not express my gratitude enough for the time I spent here and the warmth, care and flexibility of all the employees.  I wish them the best in continuing to positively influence policy and families internationally, and I can’t wait to interview for my next internship with the talking points and portfolio pieces I have from this summer.

Thanks, Parents as Teachers!

* Maria Lemakis is a journalism major at University of Missouri. She interned this summer in the communications department at the Parents as Teachers headquarters in St. Louis.