Foundation Administrator's Network: Internship Programs

Publication date: 
April, 2010

Annette Ensley and Shelly Harper (Nathan Cummings Foundation) and Jason McGill (Philanthropy New York, and formerly at Sponsors for Educational Opportunity)  shared their knowledge and experience in developing internship programs at a Foundation Administrator's Network meeting. 

Notes from Event:


A group of FAN members interested in exploring internship programs met to discuss and explore the various considerations and ways in which these programs are administered.  With increased media attention putting a spotlight on internship programs, especially unpaid ones, the subject is topical and important to understand. 

Two different internships were presented which provided a springboard for a broader conversation around creating, running and sustaining these programs. 

At the conclusion of the brown-bag lunch, a smaller working group was formed to further explore and assemble a standardized ‘promising practices’ guide as well as exploring the concept of a centralized resource center for internships in philanthropy.

Sponsors for Educational Opportunity Summer Internship

Jason McGill talked about his former employer, Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO) and their internship program.  SEO matches exceptional young people with internships in investment banking, law, asset management, and other professional fields.  In 2000, Philanthropy New York forged a relationship with SEO to administer a Diversity in Philanthropy internship program. The summer internship program would run for ten weeks. In addition to working at a foundation, the philanthropy interns would collaborate on a grant making exercise.  This internship was cancelled because there weren’t enough foundations that were participating.  In addition, there was a thought that ten weeks was not a sufficient amount of time to fully immerse the interns in the sector and to undertake a meaningful project

Key components of the Internship Program:

•    Determining the work/project for the summer

•    Managing and setting expectations of the Interns and that of the Staff

•    Developing a Pre-training overview 

•    Creating co-curricular activities to augment and enhance the internship

•    Arranging shadowing opportunities of program officers or senior managers

Nathan Cummings Foundation Year-Long Internship

Annette Ensley and Shelly Harper from the Nathan Cummings Foundation spoke about their year long paid internship program that was started in 2005. They created a very structured and detailed program that included 2 part-time interns who were identified through collaborations with local community colleges. Both parties were able to benefit from this program. 

Key Components of their Internship Program:

1.  Collaborating and developing a relationship with your local community colleges 

•    Be clear and concise with the level of intern you are looking for

•    Identify a population of interns – Part-time students attending night classes

2.  Gain support from all staff

•    Ask for staff input and feedback about how to implement a successful internship program

3.  Establish a competitive pay rate

•    $13.00 a hour and raised to $15.00 a hour after six months and satisfactory performance appraisal, paid for holidays and sick pay

4.  Determine the length of your internship program - a year long program

5.  How to identify successful interns (initially screened by colleges)

•    All interns are interviewed by Annette Ensley, Shelley Harper and a senior program staff person

6.  Monitor the interns work assignments 

7.  Provide an extensive New Hire Orientation designed solely for interns

8.  Delegate job assignments

9.  Include interns in all staff functions

10.  Identify a supervisor or mentor to oversee the internship program

11.  Interns are reviewed often

12.  Legal Ramifications – Speak to a Lawyer

•    Workers Compensation – need to add another class

•    All interns must fill out a timesheet to track hours

•    Have your lawyer review your training manual or any forms

13.  How can an intern benefit?

•    Gained experience in the job search process, including writing resumes, filling out applications and interviewing. (start this process 6 months into the internship)

•    Gained valuable office experience and skills

•    Received constructive feedback

14.  How did the Nathan Cummings Foundation benefit?

•    A current employee was able to gain valuable experience as a supervisor and coach

•    Employer gained a new perspective on how to improve certain tasks and processes

•    Hired one of the interns as a full-time employee

•    Provided an opportunity to improve relationships with local community colleges

Next Steps

At the end of the meeting, the group decided to put together a working group to explore creating a framework for standardized internship procedures and best practices. The Team will be coordinated by Philanthropy New York staff and includes: Michael Klompus, Yulian Ramos, and Shelly Harper.

Things to consider before creating an internship program:

1. What are the goals and objectives of the program? Are these interns future employees? Are you preparing them for a career in non-profit sector?

2. Legal issues 

3. Paid or unpaid

4. School credit or volunteer

5. Populations of interns

6. Share an intern with other foundations

7. Length of the program – summer, seasonal, annual 

8. Capacity – do you have physical room for the intern? Do you have the staff capacity to manage the program?

9. How is their performance measured?


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