You’ve been planning to make the jump for a while, scouring the internet for careers in nonprofits. Now, you’re ready to ditch the for-profit world, but how should you sell yourself to these kinds of organizations?
There are a few things that make successful nonprofit job applications different than those you would send out to a normal business. Here are several tips you’ll need to keep in mind while tailoring your resume and typing up your cover letter.
Nonprofit employers are looking for people with a passion for their mission. Ananda Valenzuela, managing director at Rainier Valley Corps in Seattle, says nonprofits care a lot more about mission alignment and passion for what they’re doing. Applicants need to make sure this shows through on their nonprofit resume, since these organizations aren’t looking for someone who just wants a job.
“That motivation for the mission and the work itself is really important for strongly performing employees,” she says.
When applicants lack any nonprofit experience, Valenzuela says she usually looks for relevant volunteer experience. “Have they done anything that shows they care at all about the world?” she asks. “Have they volunteered? Have they made any effort to show that they care about the issues we care about?”
It’s not easy to jump straight into certain careers in nonprofits, like program managers. Nonprofit employers generally look for someone with a proven record of directly relevant experience to fill strategic roles within their organizations.
“Unless you have relevant job experience, you’re not going to get handed a manager position at a nonprofit, because they care about you having enough program experience to make strategic decisions about said program,” Valenzuela says.
Pamela Oakes, consultant and founder of The Profitable Nonprofit, says that the fundamental expertise is going to be the same across the board, but someone coming from a profit-driven industry will need to demonstrate a deep understanding of the complexities and interdependencies of the nonprofit sector.
To gain more relevant experience, you may want to take your transition slow and start off with part-time or volunteer work at a nonprofit before you leave your current job.
"That motivation for the mission and the work itself is really important for strongly performing employees."