service learning resources

8 Free Service Learning Resources for Better Internships

If you are ready to stop scrambling and start generating a consistent pipeline of support, service learning is the answer.

Service learning programs, or internships as you may know them, are structured volunteer opportunities with an educational component. Volunteer organizations most often partner with colleges and universities, but also with local high school and middle schools to develop a set program schedule where volunteer interns participate for an established period of time, usually for a semester, summer, or school year.  

The good news is service learning volunteers usually contribute a significant number of hours – at least one day a week and often more. So, nonprofits can assign them intensive projects that may not be appropriate for more intermittent volunteers.

Also, service learning students and interns often gain school credit for their work, so they are highly motivated to follow through and complete their term of service. And, if an issue crops up along the way, a faculty liaison is generally available to work directly with the leader of volunteers to resolve any problems.

Finally, service learning is a way to give young people the opportunity to experience first hand what it’s really like to work in a nonprofit or public sector environment. So, you have a chance to identify, attract, and grow new talent for our sector. It’s a win-win for everyone.

8 Service Learning Resources for Nonprofits

1. Service-Learning Toolkit – Michigan State University

Originally for faculty, but applicable to anyone wanting to start a service learning program, this toolkit is jam-packed with free resources for educators and community partners alike. Check out the appendix for nonprofit resources.


This site connects nonprofits with campuses and students who want to get involved in service learning. It focuses on giving students an impactful alternative to the traditional Spring Break. You can become a member of the site itself, but it also has free resources for how to start a service learning program of your own.

3. Colleges with the Top Ranked Service-Learning Programs

These colleges are great places to get your foot in the door with service learning. They were voted by other universities to have the best service learning programs in the country. And, service learning is required at all of them. Is your nonprofit in close proximity? Check them out.

4. The Difference Between Service Learning, Community Service, and Internships

Take a one-minute visit to this site for an informative chart on the similarities and differences between service-learning, community service, and internships.

5. Employer Resources for Establishing Successful Internships

This comprehensive resources hub includes advice employers need to consider when setting up internship opportunities, as well as why and how they benefit the organization.  While it is geared toward private industry, the content is also helpful to nonprofits.

6. SHRM Employing Interns Toolkit

The Society for Human Resources Management’s guide covers the business case for starting an internship program and some of the practical steps organizations need to consider. There are also multiple links to deeper information.

7. Fact Sheet #71: Internship Programs Under The Fair Labor Standards Act

Whether you plan to offer paid or unpaid internships, make sure you’re operating within the law in your country. Special rules govern interns and they are slightly different than regular volunteers. This resource is from the US Department of Labor, so you can make sure you’re following the letter of the law. Also, check out this blog post for an overview.

8. Internship Posting Sites

Looking to attract interns from afar? Consider listing them on a site dedicated to matching interns and opportunities, in addition to the result sites you post volunteer opportunities. Here are two …