John Jansen is a writer, nonprofit consultant, and former executive director of Community Shares of Greater Milwaukee.
His blog Strategic Nonprofits is "a place where nonprofit professionals can get answers and contribute ideas." Topics include nonprofit communications, fund development, and executive leadership.
By John F. Jansen, NPC Guest Blogger
Being too busy with operations is no excuse for failing to build awareness through cyber channels. Whether your organization is too small to afford an outreach person or your outreach person is already over-extended, there’s a cheap and effective way for you to build community awareness.
Start a marketing internship program.
A marketing intern can immediately energize your outreach efforts, providing greater visibility, new connections and new ideas. And after a brief training period, you’ll have more time to do those larger projects you never had time for.
When I started at Community Shares years ago, my boss told me to “get an intern.” While it sounded like a great idea, I had no idea where to get one or how to structure the position. I left messages at local colleges, some of which went unanswered for weeks because it was between semesters. I sometimes ended up getting the wrong person and had to call someone in another department.
It was frustrating, but I was finally sent a student who needed some practical experience. My first intern accomplished very little, but I knew where I had made mistakes and vowed to get it right the next time – and I did.
Here are some tips that will help you create a marketing internship program that will build success year after year, like Community Shares has done for more than 10 years.
For a special project, I once let a bright marketing intern draft a Social Media Policy & Procedures Manual, which was then reviewed, modified and adopted by our Marketing Committee. (It ensured Facebook and Twitter posts 24/7/365.) Later, it became a final task for each marketing intern to update the manual to reflect changes in technology.
For most interns, money is not as important as the experience and the connections they are making. A small stipend ($500 per semester) is usually adequate, and in some circumstances interns work for no stipend at all.
The benefits are enormous. In addition to getting constant cyber coverage and someone to write newsletters and press releases, you will hear about new tech opportunities, get fresh ideas, and maybe even gain a potential new employee. And other than the time you spend onboarding your new person, your program will practically run itself after a few semesters.
If you have insights or college/university contacts you can share, please add them as a comment below so others can benefit!