Nonprofit Vs. Agency: My Experience

By: Sara Salter, Director of Membership

This summer I’ve had the unique opportunity to experience two internships at opposing ends of the spectrum. I worked for a local historic nonprofit as a marketing and development intern as well as a social media intern at an advertising agency near Philadelphia. Reflecting on my internships, I realized a few things that I saw that really seperated these two entities.

Nonprofits run on a much tighter budget than that of their agency counterparts. In my experience this translated into the environment, as well as, amenities offered for employees. The agency in which I worked had a brand-new building that was fully decked out with a ping-pong table, sofas and beanbags, a candy bar, yoga classes, a full cafe with complimentary cereal, as well as, purchasable items, and a masseuse that provided employees with a 10 minute massage two days each week. And if you’re wondering, yes, it was as cool as it sounds.

On the flip side, the nonprofit was modestly tucked away in a historic building with a museum and gift shop on its first floor while offices were on the second. It was modestly decorated and maybe a little cluttered but it had character and charm. There was also quite a difference in employee volume. The agency had three different buildings with over 150 employees while the nonprofit had about 10 paid employees and others that volunteered their time.

Both internships, regardless of their differences, taught me so much about the world of working in communications. I found the agency to be very fast paced in regards to the amount of work that needed to be accomplished each day. I often ate lunch at my desk frantically trying to get work done, don’t get me wrong, everyone was very understanding but I left almost everyday with a list of uncompleted tasks. At the nonprofit I never felt guilty about taking a lunch break but still seemed to accomplish most of what they had asked for. The nonprofit was much more grassroots in their approach as they went to events to spread their mission statement and didn’t have all the latest technology like the agency did.

I have to say that what made the most difference to me was the industry that they operated in. Being an environment-loving hippy at heart, I didn’t enjoy working in the automobile industry with the advertising agency as much as I did working in the historic nonprofit realm. At the end of the day, I think I might be a nonprofit kind of gal, but I sure did enjoy learning both sides! I am definitely open to still exploring in the future. A word of advice – never be afraid to try something different and always be willing to learn! Overall, this summer has been a highly valuable experience for me as it has helped me, even if ever so slightly, decide the direction I may want to take my career moving forward and gave me some tools to do so.

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