Guest Post: Interning in DC’s Nonprofit Sector

Written by Alyssa Perez, Alumna – Institute on Philanthropy and Voluntary ServiceAlyssa

Live. Learn. Intern. That is the pitch, that is the promise, and it makes for the best summer internship experience. The Institute on Philanthropy and Voluntary Service (IPVS) offered me everything I could have wanted out of my internship in Washington, DC, and I can’t imagine having spent my summer any other way.

Live. I lived with other ambitious students in the program who were just as dedicated to our intense schedule as I was. Living in DC is such a unique experience; you are never fully done exploring the city. Even though we only had a few short months to enjoy it, there was always something to see. My time living there only further confirmed for me that I want to move back to DC one day and begin a career.

Learn. Even though it was an intense eight weeks, I learned so much; not only about what life in DC is like, but also in my classes about the role that non-profit organizations play in our world. We debated some of the bigger ethical decisions that come with being involved in philanthropy. We focused on how philanthropic groups, no matter how big or small, can bring about change in the larger community. Through my time with IPVS, I know now that my career and time needs to be invested within the non-profit sector. Most importantly, they helped me discover how to combine my passions for service and civic engagement through the work I did this summer.

Intern. Youth Service America (YSA) was by far the most engaging internship that I have ever had, and the staff was very interested in what we, as interns, had to say. From my very first day with YSA, I knew that this summer was going to be different. The interns were invited into the Board Meeting for lunch, and they asked us what makes service meaningful. Our input was integrated into what later developed into their five-year strategic plan. I was introduced to how a vision for a non-profit turns into a mission, and a mission turns into a practical plan and attainable goals for the organization.

Throughout the summer, I was working on projects that YSA depended on (not just given “busy work”) and meaningful tasks that would have an impact on the work that YSA was doing. I helped to update and develop resource toolkits that were distributed to YSA partners in order to help explain best practices and capacity building recommendations. I was invested during my time as the Community Development and Events intern because my supervisor believed in me. She worked with me to set personal goals in order to make sure that I was getting out as much as I was putting into my experience. IPVS helped place me with a non-profit organization whose mission aligned well with my personal values, and I know that they did the same for each of my peers in the program. Having that personal match to make sure that the internship was the best fit for both of us made all the difference.

My work with IPVS and YSA is more than just another addition to my LinkedIn profile. Graduation is looking a little less intimidating knowing that I have a better idea of where I want to end up in my career, and such great people in DC still supporting me along the way. The skills and experience that I have gained through my involvements with both organizations have opened up many opportunities for my future, and for that I am forever grateful.

For more information on YAS, please visit If you or someone you know is interested in IPVS, please visit

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