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How to Find the Best Nonprofit Internship for You

I want to work for a nonprofit organization, but which one? For what cause? And how?

It can be a long road working out how to get involved with nonprofits. The good news is you’re starting in the right place looking for an internship. The bad news, even just getting an internship takes work. 


First of all, there are a lot of possibilities out there and it can be hard trying to find the best nonprofit internships for you. There’s a lot of factors to consider deciding which is the best nonprofit to intern for, the most meaningful cause to contribute to, and the most suitable internship for your professional development. 

And for the first-time internship applicants, the high school graduates and college students planning for nonprofit internships summer 2023, the whole process is sure to be very intimidating.

But worry not, in this post you’ll find a step-by-step guide of how to find internships at nonprofits, tips on what to look for, and some recommendations of programs we have available at Roots.

Interns taking a photo with elephants behind them

How to Get a Nonprofit Internship

Of course, nonprofit internships come in all shapes and sizes, interns too, and every application process will be different. Nonetheless, there are a few key questions that will help you decide which is the best nonprofit internship for you, and some things to keep in mind for any internship application.

So, here’s our pointers for each step of the way, from working out what you want to application to interviewing.

1. Identify what you’re passionate about.

Female empowerment? Homelessness? Asylum seekers? Conservation? A lot of the world needs putting to rights, what cause sets you alight?

If you want to find nonprofit internships, first find a mission or purpose that you’re passionate about. Primarily, this will give you the necessary drive to find your internship abroad, secure a placement, and make an impact once you’re there. As well as this though, a passion for the cause will make you a more appealing prospect to the organizations you apply to.

For some this won’t take much thought. Maybe you’ve always wanted to work with animals or children. Maybe you already have a background working for or studying a certain cause. 

For others, it will take more thought. Take your time, do your research, and find the difference you want to make in the world. It will make the application process smoother and the nonprofit internship itself more fulfilling.

2. Consider how you can best contribute. 

It’s all well and good saying, “I want to work for a nonprofit organization.” But what are you going to do for them?

You can find nonprofit internships in all kinds of roles: management, marketing, fund-raising, event planning, the list goes on. If you’re not sure where you’d best fit, we recommend starting small and finding a volunteer opportunity close to home. Interested in animal care? Volunteer at a dog shelter. Content writing? Guest post a blog for a site with open submissions. Fundraising? Do a sponsored run. It doesn’t have to be big, but it might give you an idea of the work you’ll enjoy and it’ll give you something to talk about in your application letter.

Beyond this, nonprofit organizations, especially the smaller more grassroots ones, love an intern who can show initiative. Once you’ve chosen an internship, research the organization, and turn up to the interview with an idea of the value you can bring to the organization. They will leap at the chance to take you on!

3. Determine what you want from the internship.

Yes, the best nonprofit internships allow you to give to a cause that needs it, but you should get something from the experience too. Be sure you’re making the most of the nonprofit internship career benefits.

This internship could be your first step on a new career path, it could be a chance to substantiate skills with experience, it could be just a break from the norm. Consider how you want to develop over the internship and this will help you whittle down your choices when it comes to picking. 

Another thing, nonprofit internships take many different forms: in-person, remote, part-time, full time; there are so many options. Utilize these options! 

You can find nonprofit internships that fit into your life and around your other commitments. Making an impact for a meaningful cause doesn’t have to mean putting your life on hold and traveling to another country. It could mean simply spending a few hours a week on your sofa with your laptop.

4. Research and shortlist nonprofit internships.

Now you know the cause you want to contribute to, how you can contribute, and what you hope to get in return, you’re ready to start making serious choices. 

If you have an idea of an organization already, now would be a good point to reach out via socials to investigate what internship opportunities are available.

Really though, the best way to do this is to contact us at Roots! There are other intern-placing companies available, but the point is, get in touch with someone who knows how to get an nonprofit internship, and let them do the leg-work.

At Roots, we have a long list of all the best nonprofits to intern for, a precise understanding of what they need, and a strong track record for finding the best placements for interns. Come to us with an idea of what you want and we’ll make sure you find your dream nonprofit internship.

Browse the nonprofit internships available with Roots

5. Update your CV. 

Alas, a passion for the cause isn’t always enough, you might also need some credentials, experience, and perhaps a portfolio or reference. 

Requirements can vary drastically between nonprofits and internships. Some require prior experience, others qualifications, others degrees. It’s important to remember though that the ideal nonprofit intern isn’t the finished product, but someone who is willing to learn. If you already have relevant skills, knowledge, and experience, that’s great, but don’t let it stop you applying if you don’t.

6. Get ready to interview.

For interviews, we’ll offer the same advice you might have heard for first dates: interviews are as much about working out if you like the nonprofit organization as they are about whether or not the organization likes you. 

Keep your own priorities in mind, ask questions, and communicate your wants and needs. This will help find an internship abroad you love, but it will also make you seem more confident and self-assured during the interview.

The 5 Best Nonprofit Internships

Now you know how to find internships at nonprofits on your own, if you’re starting from scratch, but there is another way too. With Roots, you can scroll through hundreds of the best nonprofit internships, talk to placement specialists, and be guided through every step of the application process. Here are our favorite picks for your potential shortlist of non profit internships summer 2023!

1. Refugee research Internship in South Africa

Improve your research skills whilst working to bolster the human rights of asylum seekers. 

Based in Cape Town this internship places you with the Scalabrini Institute for Human Mobility (SIHMA) where you’ll work to realize their vision: ‘An Africa where the human rights of people on the move are ensured and their dignity promoted’.

You’ll be conducting scientific research for journals and reports on the rights of refugees and the integration of diasporic communities. SIHMA uses these publications to raise awareness and advocate legislative change for asylum seekers and people on the move.

2. Wildlife Veterinary Internship in Malawi

Ever wanted to work with wild cats, baboons, antelopes, and other iconic african wildlife? Here’s your chance!

This really is one of the best non profit internships for any aspiring vets. Working as part of an experienced veterinarian team, you’ll gain hands-on experience rescuing and rehabilitating injured animals, protecting habitats, and running educational programs on ecological conservation. 

As well as assisting with health checks, care plans, and emergency operations on a range of wildlife, you’ll also be involved in management of the sanctuary, providing you with a great oversight of wildlife care and conservation as a whole.

3. NGO Management Internship in Zambia

This grassroots organization committed to improving conditions for impoverished communities through education programs and health services offers a great opportunity for anyone looking to gain an overall understanding of how to work for a nonprofit

Working as part of a small team, your role will be varied and you’ll have the chance to move between different aspects of nonprofit management including fundraising, digital marketing, impact assessment, and communications. You’ll also be under the mentorship of the organization’s CEO, so you’ll get a great overview of the organization too.

Another thing, you’ll be based in Livingstone, Zambia, so you can spend your off time experiencing Zambian culture, taking safaris or boat cruises, or visiting one of the wonders of the world, the Victoria Falls!

4. Marketing and Fundraising Internship in Ghana

Want to know how to get involved in nonprofits of all kinds? Develop your marketing and fundraising skills? This internship is a great place to start.

The Impact Youth Foundation is a charity providing sports coaching and mentorship for young people to rural communities of Ghana. Their intention is to build confidence, nurture talent, and teach life skills through these programs. An essential part of this mission is raising the awareness to gain support and raising funds to keep the organization running. This is where you come in.

As an intern, you’ll research fundraising campaigns, apply for grants and put together impact reports to send to donors. Or if you’re more inclined to the digital marketing side of things, you can spend your time developing and implementing communications strategies, assisting with website development, or creating content for social media and blogs. 

5. Biology Research Internship in Zimbabwe

Gain incredible practical lab experience working on the frontline of vital medical research. 

This is a rare opportunity to be a part of pioneering research projects helping to improve health conditions across the continent of Africa. In Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, Mutala Research performs clinical trials on vaccines and treatments for diseases like HIV, SARS, and CoV2. This internship places you as part of this team.

This is a highly specialized program, so the ideal intern will be studying a relevant discipline of biology (molecular biology, sequencing, virology, immunology or microbiology) at Masters level and will already have some experience working in a lab.

NOTE: This biology research internship is no longer available in 2024.

intern online using tablet

Now It’s Time to Get Involved in Nonprofits!

There it is, our guide on how to get internships at nonprofits, with guidance for every step of the process. On top of that, you also have a few suggestions on some of the best non profit internships available! If you’ve ever said, “I want to work for a nonprofit organization,” now you have no excuse.

If none of the nonprofit internships above spark your interest, be sure to have a look through the other internships available at Roots. And if you have any further questions on how to get involved in nonprofits, then get in touch!

Browse the nonprofit internships available with Roots

This blog was written by Tom Rusbridge.