Why social mission organisations have no excuse for not paying interns

Further to this post on the experience of interns, I thought it would be interesting to offer another first-hand view from someone who has been ‘interned’ (in their phrase).

It’s by someone called Rob White and is on the nfpSynergy blog here. It’s really an argument against unpaid interns — and why “social mission” organisations should know better!

Dealing with the classic irony first brings us to Amnesty International. They fight for human rights all over the world and run an extensive internship program, but they do not pay their interns. Neither does Free the Slaves. Oxfam had an income of over £365 million last year, while the NSPCC and Macmillan Cancer Support both got close to £150 million. All offer unpaid internships.


  1. Jan Golding Reply

    I run Roots HR CIC, the UK’s first and only human resources consultancy to deliver through a social enterprise model. We offer two paid internships per year, get fabulous candidates and fantastic input to our organisation from them. Our clients are civil society organisations, some of which are run by very experienced leaders and where meaningful work experience through internship could easily be offered – but where there is no budget or funding for paying those interns. The income of the charity is irrelevant – paying those interns would take money and that is money that will not then be spent on front line services. But what a travesty not to offer that work experience just because there is no funding to pay for it. There may be some whose circumstances mean they cannot apply for unpaid work and that is a real shame – but so is a failure to offer the valuable experience of working in a sustainable civil society organisation as an important stepping stone between education and paid employment.

    • Alun Severn Reply

      Thanks, Jan – an interesting view, and one that it is hard to disagree with…. Except that if one judges by some of the examples given in the nfpSynergy post then level of income clearly isn’t irrelevant and it is is obvious that some who *could* pay for internships aren’t. I think that was the point the original; poster was making – I don’t think he addresses the issue of those with valuable opportunities to offer but literally no money….

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