Contrary to popular belief, you don't have to be a selfless saint to work at a nonprofit. In fact, nonprofits are just like any other business in that they need smart, passionate people to help them achieve their goals. If you're looking for a rewarding career with plenty of opportunities for growth, working at a nonprofit might be the perfect fit for you. Here's what you need to know about getting started.
1. Do your research
Before you start applying to any jobs, it's important that you research the organization and the position you're interested in. This will help you customize your resume and cover letter, and prepare for any interviews. Most nonprofits are filled with people who are passionate about their mission. Whether it's feeding the hungry, rescuing animals, or protecting the environment, everyone who works at a nonprofit has chosen to dedicate their time and talents towards making the world a better place. If you're going to be successful in your job search, it's important that you be able to demonstrate that you share the organization's passion for its cause. The best way to do this is by being knowledgeable about the work that the nonprofit does and why it's important. Take some time to research the organization and make sure you're familiar with its history, successes, and challenges. This will not only help you stand out during the interview process, but it will also give you a better understanding of whether or not the organization is a good fit for you.
Tip: Check out the free course Strategies for a Successful Job Search in NonprofitReady.
Just like with any other job, it's often not what you know but who you know that counts when it comes to getting hired at a nonprofit. If you know someone who already works at the organization, ask them if they would be willing to put in a good word for you with the hiring manager. Reach out to your friends, family, and professional contacts and let them know that you're interested in working for a nonprofit. They may have connections that could help you get your foot in the door. If not, try attending events or fundraisers that the organization is hosting; this will give you an opportunity to meet people who work there and learn more about what the organization does. And even if neither of those options is available to you, simply following the organization on social media or signing up for their newsletter shows that you're interested in their work and keeps you up-to-date on any open positions that might become available.
Tip: Check out NonprofitReady’s full curriculum on Virtual Networking.
If there's a particular nonprofit you're interested in working for, consider volunteering for them. This will give you first-hand experience with the organization and its employees, and it will also show them that you're passionate about their cause. Most nonprofits have a wide range of volunteer opportunities. Take advantage of this opportunity to “see the organization from the inside” and determine if it’s a fit for you.
4. Tailor your resume and cover letter
For the best results, don't just send out the same resume and cover letter to every organization you're interested in. Take the time to tailor each one to the specific organization you're applying to. In your cover letter, mention specific programs or services that interest you and explain why you would be a good fit for the organization. A little extra effort goes a long way!
Tip: Check out NonprofitReady’s free guide on Building Your Job Profile.
5. Take Training
Nonprofits are businesses and are always looking for candidates with strong skills in areas like marketing, finance, and management. So If you have experience or education in one of these areas, take some additional nonprofit-specific training in this same area. This will help you show how your skills are transferrable and demonstrate your commitment to a career in the sector. There are a wide range of free nonprofit training opportunities that will help you be more confident in interviews and stand out from the other candidates applying for the same position.
Finding a job in a nonprofit (or any other organization) can be a long and difficult process, so it's important to be patient and keep your head up. The right job will come along eventually; just make sure you don't settle for anything less than what you want. If you're interested in pursuing this type of opportunity, make sure to do your research, network with people you know, volunteer for the organization, tailor your cover letter and resume, and take nonprofit-specific training. With a little hard work, you'll be on your way to landing a job in the nonprofit sector in no time!
Tip: New to the world of Nonprofits? Start with the Nonprofit Essentials Certificate Program. A great way to learn the ins and outs of nonprofit work and to add a certificate to your resume (for free).