Top 4 things not to use your interns for


At UniversalGiving we love our interns and recognize the tremendous amount of value they bring to us. We want all of our interns to experience growth not only as employees but also as human beings during their time with us.

Some of us have been working in the workforce for 20, 30, 40 years plus.  We’ve done a lot of things over our career, step by step, building ourselves and organizations to new levels.  

In your mind, you’ve  worked very hard to advance yourself and your company.  You’ve also rolled up your sleeves thousands of times to help make sure the team can succeed, whether that’s raising a new round of funds, or xeroxing.   Meeting with a millionaire investor, or cleaning the dishes after a team event.   You feel you have paid your dues.

Yet being a part of a company and culture isn’t genuinely driven by that mindset.  Your devotion to work should be because you want to, and would like to help. That sincerity will advance you light years.   Not only will your managers recognize your genuine attitude, but you will feel a sense of integrity within, which is driving you for the right reasons to serve.  

But you might be tempted.  

“I worked so hard!  I need help.  It’s time for the young 18 year old to roll up their sleeves so I can do the important work.”

Part of that is true.  Your interns should want to serve and help in any way they can.   But it can never be your attitude in full.  People of any age deserve to have meaningful opportunities to grow. Provide them an enriching experience that will help them grow as individuals and professionals.


So here are the top 4 things you shouldn’t ask your intern for:

  1. Go get coffee.  Everyone does this! There is no reason why you can’t get up from your office to go get your coffee and show the team that you are working to provide for yourself—your own caffeine fix!  Please keep in mind as well that as the newer generation is more socially conscious, they may not agree with caffeine or even the type of drink you are having, or even feel it is holistic or organic.  So, where you can you want to avoid any sense of conflict of values.
  2. Xerox.  We all need help with copying, faxing, and it’s okay to ask them to do it.  However, please be mindful that this should be no more than 5-10% of their job.  They are coming there to gain experience, not to press buttons.
  3. Personal errands.  Unless you have an agreement—which usually isn’t the case for college interns that they are doing personal errands for you—that should never be the case.  They are coming there to get work experience, not to pick up your dry cleaning.  Remember, they are an important part of the brand that you are building.  They can post online about anything that concerns them, but more important is that you want to make sure you’ve got a great relationship with them.
  4. Leave them manager-less.  If you are not present, make sure someone is.  They are looking for guidance, they want to grow, and they want to learn.  They don’t have anyone to go-to to ask normal questions about business.  They are going to feel stranded, and their work product will suffer, their experience will suffer, and your relationship with them will be not so strong.

We all need help and there’s nothing wrong with that.  Make sure that you give your interns positive ways to succeed in the workplace and build their resume.

What do we need in literacy education?

UniversalGiving recognizes the importance of educating children worldwide. This post is by UG team member, Sarah Kenkel, who is an educator herself.

The world had its arms race, space race, and now we’re in the education race. As an English educator for nine years in the USA, South Korea, and Turkey, I have seen a wide variety of tactics and methods used to increase literacy amongst students and they all share a focus on results.

In education as in philanthropy, the people you serve must come first and you must cater your service to best suit their needs. Data collection to show your accomplishments and progress must not overtake the basic principle that the people come first. However, in this education race, as a country, we have reversed that basic structure. Test scores and reading levels are now placed as priority and the student-centered focus suffers because of it. Many students don’t read a chapter book with a teacher’s guidance as part of their curriculum until high school, because smaller, leveled readers or sections of books hit the vocabulary, grammar, and reading comprehension strategies in less time and fewer pages. Two weeks ago I taught kindergarteners the geometric terms ‘rhombus’ and ‘trapezoid’ because they are their key vocabulary terms for that week. Trapezoid…in kindergarten – and our English language learners are supposed to catch up to that. The USA has gone from a curriculum focused on quality to one of quantity.

National educational standards and the adoption of statewide curriculums by more and more districts forces them to compete in this education race. Teachers are doing a phenomenal job with the standards they have been given. It is not that the standards are too high; it is that the education offered is not meeting the needs of the local student population it serves. Not that long ago in the USA, the educated teachers and administrators of districts created their own curriculums that were specifically catered to the needs of their community. Urban districts generally do not need the Agricultural Education classes, yet the rural ones do. District choice in curriculum still exists to an extent; however, the allocation of funds towards areas that meet national standards has created budget cuts and therefore taken away much local decision-making and spending power.

So, who is doing it right? Finland. Finland is doing the exact opposite of the Western world in education and they are succeeding in vastly greater strides.

To learn more about the Finnish education system, check out this link or watch a YouTube video: Finnish National Agency for Education

So, we just copy the Finnish system, right? Per the USA’s work week, high cost and sometimes low availability in childcare, it would be difficult to implement all areas of their plan. However, we can copy, or return to the USA’s original model which was created from the bottom-up and student centered – just as we do in grassroots-initiated philanthropy.

Selfless Venture: 7 Traits a Bona Fide Volunteer Should Possess

Today’s guest post is from Tess Pajaron.

Volunteering, when done for the right reasons, is one of the best ways you could ever spend your time, and Mother Teresa, possibly the greatest volunteer of all time, said it best when she said:

“We know only too well that what we are doing is nothing more than a drop in the ocean. But if the drop were not there, the ocean would be missing something.”

Volunteers are a rare breed, and without them, the world would be a very different place. But what does it take to be a great volunteer?

There is no easy answer to this question, as each organization is different and each venture has its own sets of challenges and requirements.

There are, however, a few qualities that every volunteer should strive to emulate, whether they are volunteering at their local homeless shelter or traveling abroad for an international organization.

A Bona Fide Volunteer… 


Volunteering is not like any other job; you may not have fixed tasks or schedules, and situations can change quickly. If you are stuck on following a particular plan or doing things a certain way, you may not be as much of a help as you’d like to be.


Volunteers must have conviction that they are doing the right thing. If you don’t have any convictions about the cause or organization you are volunteering for, you won’t be very convincing to anyone, least of all yourself.

Good volunteers feel called to do what they do, and it shows in their faith, conviction and strong morals. Having conviction is the only way to inspire others, while morals show that you actually practice what you preach.


A volunteer must be willing to learn and grow. You must be ready to learn from anyone, even If it is someone younger than you or someone you wouldn’t normally expect to learn anything from.

Everyone has something to teach, and if you aren’t open to new opinions and methods, you may miss out on some valuable lessons.


Volunteers must feel compassion and empathy in order to be effective at what they do. If you want to help others, you must be able to put yourself in their shoes and understand their problems as if they were your own.

If you cannot relate to those you are trying to help, you won’t get very far.


Truly great volunteers are humble about what they do. They are aware of their limitations and willing to put aside their pride in order to learn something new.

Throughout your time as a volunteer, you will probably have countless moments when you realize just how little you really know. Pretending you know something when you don’t will rob you of the chance to grow and become a better person.


Good volunteers know that everything takes time, and that good things come to those who wait. Rome wasn’t built in a day and if you want to accomplish anything, you need to be patient.

Progress will often be slow and perhaps not as obvious as you’d like, but if you persevere and wait patiently, you will see your efforts pay off.


Volunteering is often a thankless job, but if you are committed to seeing your venture succeed you will do whatever it takes to make that happen.

If you aren’t committed to the cause, you won’t be reliable or dependable and you’ll probably end up quitting before you have ever really started.

For this reason, it is important that you truly believe in something before you give up your time and money to help out. Commitment is the only thing that will pull you through when things get tough.

Tess Pajaron is part of the team behind OpenColleges. She is a volunteer at her local church and aims to share her learnings through her experiences. On her spare time, she loves to travel and see the world and various cultures.

Online Colleges with a Philanthropic Focus

Today’s article was contributed by guest writer Carrie Oakley.

Education has become a commodity today, and unless you can afford it, you must do without. If a college degree is what it takes to open the doors of opportunity, then it’s only the rich who can afford them without having to incur debt or make significant sacrifices. However, if you’re not too insistent on the top-rated colleges (those with the best reputations and highest degrees of popularity), you can choose to earn your degree at a community college or one that offers classes online. There are many advantages to studying online – it’s cost-effective, the schedules are flexible, and you can multi-task the many activities in your life without having to give them up in order to pursue your education.

Some online colleges are even more advantageous because they’re run as NFP (not-for-profit) institutes. While tuition fees may not be significantly lower than for-profit colleges, they do have other advantages:

  • Some of them offer easier access to financial aid – they make it more convenient to secure educational loans at low interest rates.
  • Some provide career services and help their students find jobs after graduation.
  • Schools with a philanthropic focus are more prestigious than those that run for profits because they are established institutions that don’t depend on tuition and other fees for their day-to-day expenses and costs.
  • Most online NFP schools are regionally accredited which means that they’re accepted more readily than those that are accredited by national agencies like the DETC (Distance Education and Training Council).
  • It’s also easier to transfer credits from an online school that is regionally accredited.

Colleges with a philanthropic focus are not in the business to make money; rather, they focus on providing quality education to the students who have signed up with them. This means that your tuition costs are reasonable and you’re not bombarded with unexpected and exorbitant fees.

If you’re looking for an online college that operates on a philanthropic basis, do some research on the Internet and ask around. Follow this link for a list of not-for-profit colleges, both online and traditional, in the USA.  

This guest post was contributed by Carrie Oakley, who writes on the topic of online colleges . Carrie welcomes your comments at her email id: carrie.oakley1983(AT)gmail(DOT)com.