UN-Paid: The Perks and Quirks of Interning for a Non-profit

UN-Paid: The Perks and Quirks of Interning for a Non-profit

By Annabelle Miller

Whether for the writing degree or not, when doing advanced searches for an internship, I think we all prefer to have the “paid” box checked. If we are dedicating several hours a week to writing or creating for an organization, we simply don’t have the privilege to make this time unpaid. Unfortunately, however, paid internships are harder to come by, and much more competitive. Interning for a major consulting firm like Williams Group is a dream, I’m sure, but interning for non-profit corporations are still extremely fruitful, if not financially beneficial.

Since joining the team at Artists Creating Together as a Writing and Public Relations intern, I have done more content creation than in any class or work environment. I have written several important public relations documents. I have proof-read major grants. I have written articles for the Rapidian. I even put together the content for an entire newsletter. And this is barely scraping the surface. It doesn’t include daily e-mail drafts, correspondence, business communication, etc.

And this is only writing. I have taken trips to Battle Creek for an event at Kellogg Corporate Headquarters. I have volunteered at classes, working with nearby schools and other Arts & Education organizations in the greater Grand Rapids area. I’ve learned how to manage a website through wix.com. I’ve learned how to create promotional videos. I’ve even served as an event planner for two major upcoming events.

The fact of non-profit organizations is this: they are non-profit. They can’t afford to have separate PR Specialists, Event Planners, Program Coordinators, Marketing Teams, Web Specialists, etc. ACT has four paid employees who are already overworked, working over 40 hours a week, and the unpaid interns are simply responsible for whatever job is lying around and needs to get done when they are free.

Granted, this can be overwhelming based on your personality and what work environment is conducive to you. I happen to work through job responsibilities quickly, so I am always getting new assignments because I happen to be free. Still, I’ve come into the studio several days to a stack of documents in my mailbox that I didn’t feel equipped to handle, and I’ve had days that are so filled with tasks that it seems to drag on. But I now have more experiences that I can begin to account for in a resumé, interview, or even blog post such as this one.

One semester of 16 unpaid hours a week has been grueling, but it has prepared me for higher-paying jobs that extend in several directions. Just a few weeks ago, a faculty member at GVSU showed excitement that I had event planning experience because this coming fall, they will be looking to hire an event planner. The event at Kellogg introduced me to several Public Relations specialists, and started to build a network for me. If I wasn’t interning at a non-profit organization, I wouldn’t have had the need to branch out, and I feel so much more equipped for a future career now that I have several developed skills—not just one.

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