Why You Should Consider A Non-Profit Internship


By: Kate Uesugi, GWWIB Ambassador

As a business student at GW transitioning into the second semester of my sophomore year, it seems as though internships are more and more of a priority. I know that many students, not just those in the business school, can relate when I say that the search for that perfect internship can be be stressful and scary.  As you embark on your journey to find the perfect internship, it would be wise to keep an often overlooked, yet worthwhile, option in mind: non-profit organizations. I know many people are hesitant to work with nonprofits, usually for financial or career reasons. And in my short time at GW, I’ve noticed that not many people talk about working with nonprofits; usually, you hear about great (but super-competitive) internships with Fortune 500 companies or opportunities on the Hill.

For the past couple of years, I have been an intern with the non-profit organization, ProjectFocus Hawaii. Just for some quick background, ProjectFocus Hawaii is a photography based non-profit founded 11 years ago that partners with smaller non-profits and works with at-risk kids, teaching them how to shoot their own film photography. The mission of the organization is to give these kids a voice and an outlet in order to share their stories. I have been working with ProjectFocus for 8 years, and it was just a couple years ago that I became a full fledged intern with the group.

Being with the organization for as long as I have, I have been able to see the way that a non-profit can grow over time. The amount of work that they have contributed to the community has definitely increased over the years, and their events and publicity have also grown in parallel. I feel so grateful for being able to work with them, and with each project I have learned a lot about the nonprofit world and the unique challenges they face. But if I hadn’t worked with ProjectFocus, I probably wouldn’t even consider an internship in a non-profit today.

Now here’s why you should think about it too. Even though most internships with nonprofit organizations will be unpaid, I believe that the work you will engage in will be completely worth it. I know that you don’t want to hear all the cliche, feel-good fluff about non-profits, but my experience has been exactly that. You get to learn and gain the same kind of experience that you would at another business (many of them after all have revenue on par with for-profit corporations) but, in a way, a non-profit may make the work feel more worthwhile. I have witnessed some amazing things working mainly with the actual participants and their families, but I have also seen that non-profits work best when they treat their work as an actual business, complete with budgets, project management, and marketing.  The experience and knowledge that I gained from working with ProjectFocus has pushed me to where I am today, and along the way, I left a mark in my community.