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How to Get a Job With a Non-Profit

Working in the non-profit sector gives you the opportunity to earn an income while making a difference in the world.  However, if you have never worked at a non-profit, you might not know where to start.  Here are some tips that will help you be a competitive candidate when looking for a job in the non-profit sector. 

Volunteer.  Unlike other sectors, there are lots and lots of opportunities to volunteer in non-profit.  This can allow you build up your skills, make connections and get a new reference.  If possible, try to volunteer at your target organization.  If the managers know you, they will be much more likely to give you a job. 

Show passion.  Non-profit organizations are full of people who genuninely believe in what they are doing.  Whether the organization is helping a particuar group of people or protecting the environment, it is important that you demonstrate that your values are consistent with their goals.  If you can communicate your enthusiasm through your resume and cover letter and at your interview, you will be an attractive candidate. 

Have clear goals.  If you've never worked in the non-profit sector, the hiring manager will want to see that the position is in line with your career goals.  You need to show that you are focused and that you know where you are going.  Employers will not hire you if they suspect that you will leave in six months. 

Customize your resume.  If you are new to non-profit then you are going to have to sell your tranferable skills.  This means looking at the requirements of the position and demonstrating how the skills and experience that you possess make you the perfect fit for the job.  You will not be able to effectively market yourself unless you spend the time to customize each resume and cover letter that you submit.  A one-size-fits-all approach is not likely to be effective. 

Network.  Just like many other industries, the non-profit sector is a small world.  Many of the professionals in the sector know each other or have worked together in some capacity.  This dynamic means that your networking efforts can be very fruitful.  Reach out to anyone in your network who works in non-profit.  Let them know that you are hoping to get in the sector and what type of job you are seeking.  They may know of an available position or they might be able to introduce you to someone who does.  You never know where an opportunity will come from. 

Working for a non-profit organization can be very rewarding.  Not only does it give you valuable experience but it allows you to make a meaningful contribution to the community.  Like any industry, it can be tough to break in, but if you are strategic about it you should be able to find an opportunity.

(Written by Karen Bivand, Image Courtesy of basketman at