Herman Schneider (1872 –1939) was an engineer, architect, and educator. He was also the primary founder of cooperative education in the United States and president of the University of Cincinnati.  While at Lehigh University at the beginning of the 20th century, he concluded that the traditional classroom was insufficient for technical students.  Through interviews of both employers and graduates, he devised the framework for cooperative education in 1901.  In 1903, the University of Cincinnati appointed Schneider to their faculty, and later, in 1906, allowed him an experimental year to implement his plan. Following that year, the University of Cincinnati gave him full permission for the “co-op” program.  Today, that first co-op program is still one of the premiere educational programs in the world.

Seventy-seven years later, I enrolled at UC precisely because of this program.  When I graduated, after having co-oped at NASA, I had the resume, skills and experience that exceeded most of my entry-level peers.  I have been a strong advocate of experiential learning ever since.  In fact, I have set up ten different co-op or internship programs in the years I have been in management.

So, what does this have to do with nonprofits and fundraising?  Just about everything.

Nonprofits are facing dual work force challenges right now: a shortage of qualified, diverse leadership and an impending shortage of diverse fundraisers.  Our leaders tend to “come up through the ranks” and our fundraisers tend to be people who “fell into the profession.”  Most other professions are much more deliberate about grooming the next cohort.  Nonprofits seem to believe that they do not have the time or luxury for that.

Yet, nonprofits are the perfect places for interns and co-ops.  Perpetually manpower-challenged, a nonprofit is a great place for a student worker to get real, hands-on experience that extends beyond making copies and fetching coffee.  Nonprofits are much more likely to tell an intern “build a website” than “buy donuts.” 

What makes student workers so great for nonprofits is the skillsets they bring.  I have always found that student workers come in with much higher technical skills and proficiencies than you can get from temporary agency workers at the same price, and they have lower expectations.  They are there solely to learn, build business skills and enhance their resumes.

Studies show that Generation Z is much more interested in philanthropic work than Millennials, who in turn were more interested in it than GenX.  There is a trove of talent out there waiting to be groomed.

At Our Fundraising Search, we’ve spent a lot of time talking to our clients about the need to add diversity to their leadership and development teams.  We place a high priority on it in recruiting candidates.  Now, we also think that nonprofits need to go a step further and start growing talent for ourselves.  Towards that end, we are adding our first intern to our team.  

We are running our search for an intern currently, and interested candidates should check out the job posting.  Our goal is to use our internship program to create great candidates for our clients’ entry-level positions.

I have often said that just about everything great in my life stems from my decision to go to UC.  Experiential education was a big part of that.  If you want to learn more about how interns and co-op programs can become a valuable part of your staffing model, reach out to us.  You will be amazed at how it changes your work force model for the better.