Other than bringing me Diet Coke and giving me foot massages, of course.
December 10, 2008 6:40 AM   Subscribe

We have an intern. Now what?

So, we run a teeny tiny nonprofit - we're talking less than $5,000 per year. There is a guy - a friend of a friend - who wants to do his internship to finish his MFA in our area, and he has an interest in nonprofits and marketing, as well as experience with grants. We are not entirely sure what to do with him beyond our initial brainstorm:
  1. Performing some market analysis for us including what other theatre companies are in our area, what they charge on average per ticket, what plays they have performed recently, etc.
  2. Identifying our customer base and how we can expand it.
  3. Search for applicable grants and write/help us write grant applications.
    1. Other than that, I am not sure what we should do with him or if this will be enough. These are things that we really NEED done, but we, as normal working people with a theater problem, do not have the time or expertise to do. What else should he do? We have 540 hours to work with, and I assume he will want to be done by May, but we do not have a definite schedule yet. I will answer any questions as they come up. Thanks!
posted by Medieval Maven to Work & Money (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This is tough to answer without knowing what your nonprofit does.
posted by craven_morhead at 7:00 AM on December 10, 2008

posted by Jaltcoh at 7:07 AM on December 10, 2008

Response by poster: We are a very small nonprofit theater. To be more specific, we do outdoor Shakespeare 2x yearly, doing nontraditional settings. I read that other askme, but we are nonprofit and we are not in Asia; there is no language barrier to overcome, we have no office - he will be telecommunting or working with the cultural/historic site that we work with to do our shows.
posted by Medieval Maven at 7:19 AM on December 10, 2008

Was he included in the brainstorm? It sounds like he has some previous experience, and likely has some pretty good ideas of where he could do his best work and offer you the most valuable help.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:30 AM on December 10, 2008

Best answer: Projects that require some "this would be great if anyone had the time" research and data entry are perfect for interns.

*Creating a database of everywhere to which you could apply for grants, including contact name and any standing deadlines?
* Creating a directory of all the information commonly needed for grants and a schedule of when each piece of information can be updated?
* Compiling some competitive intelligence on what other theatre companies are doing similar work to yours?
* Seeking associations/societies/leagues for which your org would be eligible for membership and assessing their worth for your particular org?
*Compiling a list of academic resources for actors doing Shakespeare?
* Compiling a list of venues in which you could post audition notices, again with any standing deadlines.
* Archiving/cataloguing programs/photos/other documentation of past performances?
posted by desuetude at 7:38 AM on December 10, 2008

He's doing an MFA?
Have him create posters and flyers for the shows and maybe help design a website or a mailing with graphics to get the word out about your events.
posted by rmless at 7:54 AM on December 10, 2008

Best answer: Have you talked with him about what he envisions he might be able to do for your organization?

I imagine that if you were getting some wet-behind-the-ears college freshman who had never worked in the real world, it'd be pretty important to have a very finalized set of things you expect him or her to achieve, but I would think that a graduate student would be a different ball o' wax. If this is a capstone project for a graduate program--after which, he's presumably going to go out in the world and landing a not-entry-level job--I would think you should approach it much more like a consultant-type internship.

If it were me, I'd brainstorm with other members of my organization about what our goals for the next 5 years were and what the major barriers to that are (for instance, we're too dependent on a variable income stream, or we really need to aggressively grow our revenue in order to start doing X, or we'd like to be able to attract more high-level theater performers to work with us, or we want more visibility on the local art scene). Think about what your organization is growing towards (final goals), and what sorts of intermediate things need to be accomplished to make that happen.

Then sit down with the intern, maybe a few weeks before his internship starts--it'd be nice if you could get the whole nonprofit together somewhere, even just using a community space for this one thing--and talk with him about the vision for your organization, what things you'd like to see happen, and what you perceive the barriers to be. Explicitly say that you'd like him to work with your organization to come up with a plan to address one or more of those issues, and to start (maybe even complete!) the implementation of that project while he works for you. Maybe that'll take the form of a brand new webpage and implementation of a PR system for you guys to get more visibility when you put on your twice-yearly performance. Maybe it'll be a mass mailing to get more donations, so that you can start building a bit of a cushion to get you through lean years. Who knows--the point is, presumably this guy should have some ideas or expertise in helping you all move to the next level. He shouldn't need someone to hold his hand and tell him what to do--that sounds stressful for you, and not terribly valuable for him.

Also, you really should feel free to contact whoever runs the internship program at the school he's coming from (because if he's getting academic credit, someone is coordinating it on the school's end) and run by them what you'd like him to do, to make sure it's an appropriate sort of thing. I'm sure they'll have no problem sharing with you what sorts of things interns in that program usually do and what is fair to expect. After all, they don't want to award academic credit if all the poor guy is doing is making copies, and they also don't want him to get thrown into a situation that he's not equipped to handle. I'm sure they deal with these sorts of questions on a regular basis--that's why they're there.
posted by iminurmefi at 8:20 AM on December 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Do you do direct mail campaigns for funds/advertising? Creating or managing a database and scheduling this sort of thing could be pretty useful. Lots of small organizations just use an Access database for that. Or creating or maintaining a website? Even if he's not proficient, there's lots of good blogging software designed to help novices through the process--Wordpress is pretty user friendly and there's a lot of documentation and support for it.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 8:31 AM on December 10, 2008

Best answer: I just finished a marketing internship (undergrad, not MFA) with a nonprofit, and I primarily telecommuted (one in-person meeting per week with the communications director). My main project was writing the organization's marketing plan -- from scratch through to print. I worked on the annual report, also to print. I also completely overhauled their program brochures, created displays, and assisted as needed with a couple of conferences. Additionally, I created ads, flyers, posters, and postcard mailers, a program for a fundraiser, wrote PSAs and media releases, fact sheets, compiled a media contact data base, and wrote 3 grant proposals.

All of the above suggested research and website work would have been good too; even if your org doesn't think it needs marketing data right now, having a system in place to collect it will be extremely useful as the org grows. Does your org have an (e)newsletter? A contact mechanism for your donor base? Writing for those is good.

My internship requirements were 250 contact hours; I was quite busy with all the above, including research, meetings with the board and management staff...my actual hours were closer to your intern's requirement. If he's at all enthusiastic, he should have no trouble thinking of projects that will actually prove useful to your organization. Good luck!
posted by faineant at 10:15 AM on December 10, 2008

It's free labor and its a tough economy. Have him focus on business assets like the aforementioned databases and reports. Menial tasks might make you feel like you're keeping him busy, but at the end of his internship, what do you have to show for it?

This is a great opportunity to get ahead.
posted by JuiceBoxHero at 2:22 PM on December 10, 2008

Response by poster: Woohoo! We had our first meeting with our intern yesterday, and he has LOTS of ideas that are great, and he's already working on a grant with us! Thanks for the great answers; it helped us think about what we wanted/needed and gave us a better vocabulary.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:46 AM on December 21, 2008

« Older Best low-light lens for Nikon D80?   |   How to get a list of pages and assets for a... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.