Advancement Blog

3 ways to increase ROI of student internship programs

by Maria Morrison

To attract the best and brightest future graduates, many advancement teams have launched student internship programs. Yet many graduates don't continue on to work for their alma mater. It’s no surprise: The competition to hire these promising graduates is tough. This competition can lead to a low return on investment (ROI), most frequently measured by how many program graduates take full-time positions in their advancement department.

To increase the ROI of your student internship programs in advancement, consider implementing the three practices below.

1. Demonstrate the impact of a career in advancement

Current research shows that recent graduates are looking for jobs where they can develop their skills and have an impact. Many companies can promise graduates skill development, but because advancement is mission-driven work, graduates have a unique opportunity to also impact their community.

Advancement must show interns the impact they can have by being part of a mission-driven organization. One East Coast public research university shows interns’ impact by taking them on campus tours that highlight donor-funded initiatives and buildings. Highlighting impact will increase the chances of recent graduates accepting a full-time position at the university and increase the ROI of the program for advancement shops.

2. Track individuals that leave—and encourage them to come back

Many advancement shops don’t have enough entry-level positions available to hire their interns upon graduation. This makes it difficult to see an ROI in the near-term so advancement shops must look towards long-term gains.

To increase the long-term ROI of a student internship program, advancement should keep track of past participant information to encourage those that left the college or university to return. One Midwest private research institution emails past participants when new positions open up. Advancement shops can use past participant lists to proactively recruit individuals for positions.

3. Increase the diversity of your internship

Rutgers University showed interns they valued diversity by establishing diversity goals for their internship program. Rutgers has successfully reached their diversity goals, created a diverse environment for students, and hired 80% of their participants. Diversifying internship cohorts will establish with program graduates the understanding that advancement is a diverse and inclusive place to work.

Prioritize diversity goals in these five advancement areas

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An MGO's first 180 days on the job often determines whether they will succeed or fail. Download our onboarding toolkit to design a customized program for helping new hires gain the skills needed for success and increase long-term retention rates.

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