The non-profit sector attracts a large number of motivated and passionate people, but their numbers are not sufficient to meet the staffing needs of NGOs. In the section on performance at our Round Table Meet, talent acquisition was a closely discussed topic.
Internships turned out to be one of the most popular and cost-effective sources of talent. A few attendees mentioned that their organisations stumbled on this idea, while others have developed a strategic plan to source talent through internship programmes. Interns were sourced from undergraduate and post-graduate programmes in addition to professional degree programmes like a Master’s in Business Administration.
Using interns provides a simple solution to the temporary shortage of hands occasionally experienced, at a low cost. Interns are able to easily perform tasks (say technology updates or fund raising presentations) that may not be the strengths of field staff. It seems like a win-win situation for all concerned. However, Suresh pointed out that if handled badly, internships can show the intern the “worst face” of the organisation and sector. He provided a few tips on managing interns during their tenure:
- Set up a clearly structured internship programme where the contribution of the intern is well defined for the duration of the internship.
- Make sure the intern has a point of contact within the organisation who they will report to and liaise with
- The intern should be given a good impression of the organisation. Interns become stakeholders of the organisation as well
Create a pool of interns
- School students: School students are often required to undertake social work as part of their course requirements. Suresh felt that an ideal way to tap this pool of talent is by signing up with schools that offer the Indian Certificate for Secondary Education (I.C.S.E.) or International Baccalaureate programmes.
- Undergraduate students: Many undergraduate students are also mandated to do some social work activity as part of their coursework. St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai, offers academic credit to who complete a fixed number of hours of social work. Several NGOs at the Round Table found that internship programmes introduced students to a career option they were not aware about earlier.
- Post- graduate/MBA students: While these students are more skilled and can contribute to your organisation at a deeper level, many NGOs felt that it might be difficult to get a long-term commitment from them.