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Strategies for funding your internship with a non-profit

You have made the decision to do an international internship. You found this amazing NGO you would love to work for. You understand the value that this important educational experience will provide to you in terms of expanding your career potential and your personal development. So what’s standing in your way? If you are like many prospective interns, the answer may be money. It’s important to plan ahead for all of the hidden costs that come along with an unpaid position. Freaked out? Don’t be! Here’s how to afford an unpaid internship abroad.

First of all, good on you for doing an NGO Internship abroad! We might be biased, but doing an internship with a charity is an excellent move, on a number of levels. First of all, and most obviously, you’ll be supporting an important cause. You’ll be part of a group of passionate people working towards a social impact or environmental mission, and you’ll make a tangible contribution towards this goal.

Moreover, as an intern with a charity – especially if it’s a grassroots organisation – you’ll be a large part of a small team. This ensures that you’ll have a variety of tasks and a lot more responsibility than at any corporate internship. Great for your personal and professional development, and great on your resume as well.

Obviously many charities deal with a lack of funds and resources, and a nonprofit internship abroad is likely to be unpaid. A challenge for sure, but there are financial avenues to explore. Here are five things to explore when looking for a way to fund your nonprofit internship abroad.

1. Check with a career counselor

Many colleges and universities have started programs in order to help students who want to pursue an unpaid internship. The goal of these programs is to provide access to all students to be able to get experience in their field of interest especially if they didn’t have the financial resources to complete an unpaid internship. Check with the Career Services Office at your University or College to see if they have a program that would support you financially or can guide you in the right direction.

2. Apply for grants and scholarships

It’s definitely worth looking for scholarship opportunities: There are some grants and scholarships that may be available for intern abroad programs. As most of the programs are region/country-specific it’s good if you know where you want to go and then take the time to look through scholarships that your country or region may provide. Though scholarships are well known, many people don’t apply because they forget the deadline or think too many other people will apply. If you do your research though, the rewards will be extremely beneficial! Also, sometimes the key to getting the most out of your internship abroad is to be aggressive when applying for scholarships, so don’t be hesitant!

Interested in doing a charity internship in Africa? Check our various opportunities!

3. Start your own fundraising campaign

Crowdfunding is a great way to gain money with both local and distant friends and family. Online fundraising platforms like FundMyTravel or GoFundMe are well known for travelers and students trying to fund their intern abroad program. You can easily build a profile, launch your campaign and share your page with your network of family and friends to help spread the word and encourage more people to donate to your dream. Just keep in mind that crowdfunding largely depends on your network. Because these sorts of campaigns are pretty much social media-based, it’s the members of the network that become contributors.

4. Work on the side

If you can, it is best to get the money the old-fashioned way: earn it. Find part-time work or a summer holiday job in order to save money for your time abroad. If need be, put in the extra hours and put the money into a special account. If you can’t raise enough money before you leave for your internship you can also try to find a part-time job abroad. You may have to change your internship schedule or weekend plans around, but most intern coordinators will understand. It sounds like a little bit of a mission but remember, this is an investment in your future!

Still not sure about doing an unpaid internship? Have a look at these 5 reasons why it can be absolutely worth it!

5. Connect with other interns

Try to find other interns that are in the same situation. It can be very convenient if you know anybody else interning in the area you’re aiming for. Sharing an apartment with several people will help you manage the cost of living. With roommates, you can split bills for things like rent, electricity, carpooling and an internet connection. Having a posse can also motivate you to save money because budgeting is more fun with friends!

If you’re on a very tight budget you will have more fun going to free local events and staying in if you have someone to hang out with who is on the same budget schedule. You can work together to stay on track and not splurge on clothes, nightlife, dining out – all major budget killers. And if you don’t know which city to choose – Cape Town has incredibly much to offer! Check out 7 reasons to do an internship in this beautiful city.

Finance unpaid internship    Finance unpaid internship

If all else fails, do a remote internship with a nonprofit

If you really can’t make it work financially to venture abroad for your preferred charity internship, don’t worry! There’s another way; you can consider doing a remote charity internship. You’ll still be part of a nonprofit organisation abroad, and you can still gain a wealth of work experience, but you’ll do it from the comforts of your own home. These days, with distributed work getting increasingly common in many industries, most work can be done online, and you can still be very much part of the team. It’s a great way to have a cheap, environmentally friendly, and still rewarding and valuable internship. Have a browse through our online internships with African nonprofits to explore your options!

If there’s a will, there a way (most of the time)

Of course, everyone’s personal situation is different, but you might want to consider these strategies for funding your internship. Before you turn down a great opportunity for financial reasons, make sure you’ve explored all of your options beforehand. There are always ways to save money, no matter the situation. As the saying goes, where there’s a will, there’s a way.

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