Last week the publishing world was at the center of some controversy when Conde Nast, publisher of many huge national magazines like Vanity Fair, Vogue, and Glamour canceled their unpaid internship program after some former interns complained about the program.
Associations Now’s Ernie Smith published an article about it, wondering if nonprofits should drop unpaid internships too. After all, isn’t it ethical that people get paid for their work? Read Ernie’s full article here!
Many associations, especially small staff associations, can’t afford to pay interns. They make up for it like many other unpaid internship programs do: with work experience, connections, and glowing recommendations. Many colleges and universities offer class credit in exchange for the completed internship, and depending on the field of study many university students have a required internship before they are awarded their degrees.
In his Association’s Now article, Ernie mentions a quote from “Womans Wear Daily” the Conde Nast publication that first broke the story. Ernie quotes, "'I was skeptical at first that I would have menial tasks and feel taken advantage of, but I was wrong,' one former Lucky intern said about her experience."
A simple way to head off that problem is to pick qualified interns and have an open, candid conversation about your program, what you expect of them, and what they hope to get out of working with your association. It may involve shaking up a program already in place, but that’s ok! Perhaps it’s time to roll with the changes!
Finally, evaluate your industry, not just association practices. If you work for an engineering association, see if firms in your area offer paid internships. If they do and you’re not able to pay your interns, your association could possibly help by making the available internships known and helping the right firm find the right intern.
There’s more ways to engage the next generation of association leaders. For more information on engaging “Generation Connected” download our free guide!