How to get a job at a non-profit organization

How to get a job at a non-profit organization

People are attracted to non-profit organizations for many different reasons. One of the main reasons to seek out non-profits for work is because your daily contribution directly affects the well-being of others. Working for a non-profit is a great opportunity to give back to humanity while making a decent living.

One thing to understand when seeking employment at a non-profit organization is that these types of companies operate through donations and government funding, so there is always a watchful eye on the budget and the bottom line. The non-profit pay scale is often below its corporate business counterpart.  The decision to work for a non-profit should be centered on the actual work you will be doing rather than the pay since it will be slightly lower than market rate.

There is sometimes a misconception that having a classification as a non-profit organization means the business does not make money or does not have any money, neither of these are true. Being a non-profit is simply a tax classification that allows a company to accept public donations, apply for government funding and be relieved of paying sales tax.

If you’re focused on landing a job at a non-profit organization these next steps will help simplify the process.

  1. Create a list of causes you care about

    Make a list of your personal interests and causes you want to support. This could be issues or situations that you have personally experienced or populations that you’ve always wanted to help. For example – homelessness, child abuse, ending world hunger, etc.

  2. Do your research

    Research organizations that work with the interests you’ve outlined. The closer the cause is to an issue you care about, the more gratifying the work becomes. If you’re someone who enjoys learning, having an insider’s view to addressing a societal ill or helping to enhance the well-being of others can also work to broaden your own perspectives and foster personal growth.

  3. Volunteer

    Volunteer your time at a non-profit organization you are passionate about. Look for opportunities that match the position you are looking to acquire. Most non-profits use a substantial amount of volunteers to support their daily operations. So the more experience you have under your belt, the easier it will become to understand how to pitch yourself to a non-profit of your choice.

  4. Participate in community events

    Non-profits often collaborate with other community based organizations and hold joint fundraising events. This is a fun way of getting to know the culture of your organization of interest and to get to know others in the non-profit community. After attending a few events, you’ll come to realize that the non-profit world is small. Most organizations operate in “cause clusters” and will know each other very well. This leads to the next point…

  5. Network, network, network!

    Networking with community leaders, various organizations and supporting their events will put you in touch with non-profits’ staff members that are active and provide you with an “in” to the communities.

  6. Follow the industry trends

    Whether you are looking to get into advocacy work or to help eradicate homelessness, understanding the challenges and wins of your non-profit of choice will prepare you to speak knowledgeably about their needs and how you can contribute.

  7. Apply, apply, apply

    Find internet sites like Idealist.org that specifically advertise non-profit jobs. Also visit the organization’s website and check their career page for opportunities that fit your experience.

  8. Be patient

    If you don’t have any paid experience with non-profits, it may take some time to land an interview. Use the information you’ve gathered from researching, participating, volunteering and networking to give yourself a leg up when you are finally called for an interview.

  9. Donate (if you can!)

    Lastly, and most important, donate. You can donate small amounts of cash or in-kind donations and get added to the mailing list so you can stay on top of non-profit news regularly.

Following these steps will put you closer to landing your ideal job at a non-profit organization. Depending on the company size, you may be required to take on more tasks and wear more than one hat. Be prepared to think on your feet and to hit the ground running. It’s been noted that the best non-profit employees have a roll up their sleeves and “let’s get to it” attitude. Good luck with your search!


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