Why We Have a Paid Internship Program at The Campaign Workshop

by Joe Fuld (He/Him)

Three young people working at a paid internship

A Paid Internship Makes for Better Interns 

Finding a paid internship in politics, public affairs or political consulting is not easy.  Oftentimes, hours of web research end in disappointment with search results offering unpaid internships with unclear job descriptions. Many small businesses have given up on internships altogether, paid or unpaid, because they could not find value.  So, if you are looking for a paid internship or you are a company thinking about how to get real value from your internship program, this blog post is for you.  

Why do we have paid interns at The Campaign Workshop? 
Figuring out how to run a strong internship program took a while for us. We always paid interns something, but in the ten years of running this company, the amount we have paid interns and how we derive real value from their work has evolved. This post is not an essay about why everyone should pay interns (though we think that inference is obvious). Rather, our aim is to provide a more detailed explanation for why we run a paid internship program at all, and the benefit we as a company get from it. 

Finding professionals in advocacy and in and politics
If you are reading this post, you likely found it on our website. We run an advocacy and political consulting firm where we work with groups and organizations, and a few candidates, to move people to action. Actions can be calling a legislator, taking a course on pay equity, trying to change a law, or simply getting registered to vote. When I first became interested in political and public affairs work as a college student, I found it hard to find people in this field. Eventually, I was lucky enough to intern with a political media consultant that resulted in an independent study for course credit at my university. Notably, the internship was paid. It wasn’t much but it was the only paid internship I got in college – and I did quite a few internships while I was an undergrad. It made a big difference – both in terms of earning money and in my mindset as an intern.    

Evolving mindset – We pay our interns 15 dollars an hour. We started our intern program as a stipend program where we paid 10 dollars an hour in addition to providing occasional food and snacks.  Over time, we learned that better pay, a clear hiring process, and clear deliverables for interns made for a better environment and stellar work product.   

Better applicants – We take two interns a semester for a virtual intern program, with a focus on students in their junior or senior year of college. A few years back, we changed compensation for our interns from a 10 dollar an hour stipend to 15 dollars an hour. We also worked to generate a bigger, more diverse applicant pool by broadening outreach and formalizing the hiring process, beginning with peer interviews and providing a clear job description for applicants to see exactly how their role as an intern would be converted into meaningful work for pay.  

Our paid internship program is still a work in progress, but the outcomes improve each year. Identifying areas of interest that overlap with the goals of the company is a great place to start. Add outreach, pay, a clear job description, and a path toward tangible deliverables and you’ll increase the pool and quality of your applicants. 

Here is a description of what our interns may do when working with us at The Campaign Workshop: 

Shadow and learn from our experienced staff in mail design, digital strategy, production management, creative design development, and client marketing and sales.

Collaborate with team members on projects like training research and content marketing. 

Learn about advocacy and political consulting by writing briefing memos and researching candidates, campaigns, organizations, and other issues related to current clients.

Assist with proofreading proposals and memoranda for clients.

Manage web content like blog posts, eBooks, and infographics as well as SEO. Notably, incorporating interns into this kind of content management has reduced staff time while increasing our capacity to create valuable and consistent web content for our web readers. 

Work on podcasts by driving research and helping with production. Frankly, we would not have moved as fast without the help of interns. For instance, former intern, Daniel Lam, really helped to propel our podcast into what it is today. 

Learn project management skills like HubSpot, MOZ, WordPress, Drupal, and story collection tools. It is important to us that our interns leave with skills that they can use at other jobs. In so doing, we get help with some technical aspects of our web and content work that saves time and staff resources.  

Conduct research for stock photos to use for mail and online campaigns. This is a crucial part of the work we produce but it can take a lot of time from our staff. By bringing interns into the fold, our internal creative processes have become much more efficient.

Participate in creative exercises. Although interns don’t write mail pieces or create digital ads, we do encourage their input in creative problem solving around certain issues and subjects. This allows us to get fresh ideas and perspectives in brainstorming exercises and gives them the opportunity to contribute to the team. 

By the time an intern finishes working at TCW, they will have gained a solid understanding of our work as a company and a keener sense of working in politics, advocacy, and public affairs arenas. Finding a career in our line of work is not always easy to navigate, but an intern’s experience at TCW should be enough to inform their career path moving forward. We do our part to show folks the work we do to help them find a path toward careers in advocacy, government, and progressive politics, and we are proud of the many places our interns have gone on to intern and/or work professionally at, including CSPAN, CNN, Bully Pulpit lawyers committee for civil rights, and even The Campaign Workshop.

Pay it forward – We all have been lucky to have people who helped us grow in our careers. Expanding and evolving our intern program is both helpful to us and the progressive movement. We list current internships on our website. If you are interested in our paid internship program, or you know of someone who might be looking for a paid opportunity for summer, fall, or spring terms, check out our current openings here. You can also find a lot of paid internship opportunities in our job board post.