The Ultimate Guide to Starting and Improving your Internship Program


Welcome to your one-stop-shop for everything you need to know in order to develop an awesome internship program at your organization. To help you through this frequently undervalued process, here are the best resources about finding, onboarding, training, and managing interns.

Where to Look for Interns

Looking to build capacity on your team? Interns are a valuable asset to nonprofits because they bring a fresh perspective, are (usually) technologically savvy, and increase productivity. Plus, developing an internship program at your organization allows you to assess compatibility if you are looking to hire in the future. According to a survey by NACE, almost 40% of employers reported a higher five-year retention rate among employees they’d hired via internship programs. Even if you aren’t looking for future hires right now, interns can become ambassadors for your organization and spearhead new projects.

Get the Best Applicants

Competing for top talent can be a challenge, especially for nonprofits that may not be able to offer the pay or perks that larger internship programs can. A great job description can help your organization attract the best candidates for your open positions. Our intern job description template can help your nonprofit hit all the right points to entice all the best applicants.


Making the Right Pick

Most internships are short term, but that doesn’t mean nonprofits should cut corners when it comes to the hiring process. At Whole Whale, we invest time and energy into selecting our interns so that we always feel confident we’re bringing on the best humans. Use our 3-step hiring process to make the right choice of intern every time.

Onboarding Interns

Like any new hire, your interns are only as good as the information given to them. Whether they’re with you for 3, 6, or 12 months, giving them all of the tools to help them succeed both as individuals and within your organization will benefit everyone. Here are our 7 tips for training your interns to crush it.

Gearing up for their first day? Start off on the right foot with our Intern Orientation Agenda.

Once they arrive, get it in writing! Here’s our template for an Intern Handbook that will get the basics of organizational functions on paper, letting managers spend less time on logistics and more time on trainings.


How to Build an Internship Program at your Organization


Now that you know where to find interns and how to eventually onboard them, you’ll need some tips and resources to effectively hire and maintain your internship program. Also, what should you have interns, well, do?
Join Chief Whaler George Weiner as he sits down with Idealist Careers Editor Alexis Perrotta and Idealist Community Engagement Manager Maggie Larson to discuss how you can create an awesome internship program at your organization. Whether you already have interns, or are looking to start from scratch, you’ll get exclusive hiring and management tips to make the most out of the program.


  • The benefits of developing an intern program
  • How to post a great job description
  • Best practices for hiring and interviewing interns
  • What tasks to assign interns to increase happiness and impact


18 Practical Task Ideas for Interns

In order to really avoid the ‘what do I do next?’ problem, here is an awesome list of potential tasks that might be perfect for your interns.


How to Keep ‘Em Around

When managed properly, interns can be a valuable asset to any team, and provide a tremendous ROI. There’s no doubt in our minds that a strong internship program can dramatically improve a nonprofit’s hiring funnel — read the rest of our thoughts on how to find find full-timers from within your intern pool.

Internship Resources and Templates

Job Description Template
Intern Orientation Agenda
Intern Handbook Template


Special thanks to all of the Whole Whale Interns over the years that have brought new energy and ideas to our team. We are proud that around half of our staff were interns first.
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