I have spent much of my training life in non-profit community mental health clinics. As part of this experience, I have become a student of sorts for the operational aspects of non-profit clinics. One of my many hypotheses is that interns can provide invaluable support to the non-clinical aspects of clinic life. Of course, internship is really about learning opportunities, so clinics need to be thoughtful about providing proper supervision and learning experiences. With that said, here are five interns that I feel are most relevant to mental health non-profits today.
With increased demand for services and seemingly ever-waning financial support from both public and private sources, there is increasing pressure on mental health non-profits to be aware of their financial situation and make wise financially sound decisions. For many organizations, this has meant either moving away from end-of-the-fiscal-year audits or adding some shorter-term snapshot (e.g., quarterly, monthly, etc.) for leadership to have a more accurate and real-time picture of the clinic’s finances. Finance interns can assist the clinic’s main finance person to ensure that the financial information is ready when needed. Whether it be in the submission of insurance claims, assisting in the preparation of finance reports, or balancing daily receipts, finance interns can contribute much to allowing an organization stay financially afloat and able to further pursue its vision.
Information Technology Interns
While many non-profits still depend (partially or wholly) on manual means of operating, larger social forces such as the rise of the digital economy and impact of laws like the Affordable Care Act have been giving clinics a lot of reason to consider going digital. Two particular areas where I have witnessed this trend is in the adoption of Electronic Health Records (EHR) and the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement in organizations. Transitioning to EHR has required that clinics become more mindful of the health of their computers and network, and the integrity of their digital security. The BYOD movement seems to become increasingly significant for clinics that provide remote or off-site services wherein staff are becoming increasingly interested in using their own devices to fulfill responsibilities. In the end, having someone dedicated to the care of your clinic’s software and hardware needs can free the clinical staff to focus on what they should be doing best– providing high quality clinical care to your clients.
In speaking with clinicians, I noticed that many above a certain age hold ‘marketing’ with much suspicion. The thinking seems to be that a therapist does networking to grow one’s business, not marketing; one does not market a product, one offers a service. Yet today, ideas such as marketing and branding are just as common in the non-profit world as it is in business. More and more recognition is given to the role of marketing interns, especially in the areas of event planning, project management, and fund raising. Of course, the pervasiveness of lives (and eyeballs and wallets) living in the online world means that marketing efforts need to seriously include that in their strategy. As competition increases in the non-profit “marketplace,” having a talented marketing person can help a center know and be known by its target audience, existing donors and potential funders.
Online/Social Media Community Interns
The advent of “Internet 2.0” or the social internet a few years ago has opened up the internet’s potential as a place for community building. While some might integrate this person’s responsibilities to the marketing intern, I personally think there is merit for separating the two roles. The difference mainly lies in the goal of each position. On the one hand, I the marketing person’s role as developing engagement—moving a target audience toward a particular behavior such as visiting your website, signing up for your event, or calling your office to schedule an appointment. On the other hand, the community intern’s role is to build an online community around one’s brand/project/organization. They may use similar tools, but the latter is focused on providing (and gathering) information and encouraging dialogue centered on your clinic and its services and activities.
Data Analysis Interns
Yes, I must admit, I only added this position because I wanted to give my suffering of learning statistical analysis programs some meaning! ☺ Jokes aside, increased computing power and sophisticated data analysis programs have ushered in the world of “big data.” Having such a person can be helpful in at least two ways. First, data analysis can help provide your clinic with metrics, that is quantitatively measuring, regarding your key performance indicators (KPI). Depending on your setting, KPIs might include number of clients served, symptom improvement over time, customer satisfaction, clinic efficiency, etc. Second, many grant giving organizations are also requiring more data regarding the organizations they support. Having someone focused on properly analyzing the clinic’s data can be a valuable asset for improving your center’s present operations and preparing it for a more effective future.
Are you involved in any non-profit leadership? Who have been your most valuable non-clinical interns? Sound off in the comments below or in our social media pages!