Funding an Unpaid Internship

One obstacle for many students who want to work in the non-profit sector is the fact that it’s not, well, particularly profitable. Many non-profits only offer unpaid internships – sometimes they offer course credit, though this too can be costly – but there are ways to make it work for you.

Has a non-profit or school program ever helped you to fund an unpaid internship?

  • Find out if your college has a funded internship program. Many colleges and universities have picked up on the dilemma of the unpaid intern and started programs to support students in this position by offering stipends to help cover summer expenses. Check with your school’s career office or public service center to see if they have such a program and, if not, you might recommend that they look into it.
  • Another option is to research individual grants, scholarships and fellowships online. Many organizations and foundations provide grants for students seeking work experience in their field of study during college. These awards are often based on personal experience, professional goals, unique attributes, or interests of the student, and thousands of them exist.
  • You may be able to ask a family member or friend to help support your unpaid internship, in the form of a donation or loan, if doing so will help you get started in your career without building additional debt (like student loans aren’t bad enough!). They may see it as investing in your future for big returns in the long run.
  • Many students will combine an unpaid internship with a part-time summer job. Because many internships can be done part-time or remotely, this is often a viable option. This way, you’ll get the benefit of relevant experience in your chosen field, transferable skills and work experience from your job, and money to help pay for college and school year expenses!

It may be a daunting process, but doing some research and checking out your options is totally worth the effort. Gaining relevant experience and networking with professionals in your field are critically important to building a strong resume and navigating the post-grad job market. By being proactive and making that internship happen, you’ll be capitalizing on your education while also getting a head start at working in the real world.