Nonprofit organizations, also known as 501c(3)s, are legal institutions operating for a collective, public, or social benefit. They do not make a profit and finance all operations through donations. Plus, nonprofits receive tax exemptions in exchange for services provided.
Working at a nonprofit attracts people who are passionate about working towards a greater purpose and motivated to the world a better place. The industry accounts for more than 12 million jobs, with hospitals and universities representing the largest group.
Pros of working at a nonprofit
Employees working for nonprofits have the opportunity to serve people every day. Here are some additional benefits of working in the nonprofit industry:
- Opportunity to grow your resume (hiring managers love to see nonprofit experience.)
- Diverse work environment and organizational thinking.
- Supportive community environments.
- Higher levels of collaboration.
- Interesting and thoughtful coworkers.
- Increased teamwork, multi-tasking, and project management skills.
- Self-fulfillment and sense of value.
Cons of working at a nonprofit
Like any other industry, there are some cons to working in nonprofits. People working in nonprofits know their impact and self-fulfillment outweigh the downsides. However, they should be considered when thinking about breaking into the industry. The cons of working at a nonprofit include:
- Slimmer margins and lower salaries.
- Dependence on donations and funding.
- Increased risk of burnout.
- Bureaucracy and lack of innovation.
- Limited technology and resources.
Nonprofit vs. for-profit companies
Nonprofit organizations qualify for government tax exemptions because their mission and daily contributions benefit a social or public issue. Organizations that fall under this category include charities, foundations, government groups, hospitals, and universities.
On the other hand, for-profit companies operate to make a profit. These organizations sell a product or service and might do so for the greater good, but their priority is making money. This more significant influx of cash is why salaries are usually higher at for-profit companies. Other notable differences include:
- Nonprofits usually have a wider audience than for-profit companies.
- Leadership has a financial benefit at for-profit companies, while nonprofits are run by a board of directors who don’t get financial gain from their affiliation.
- For-profit company culture focuses on revenue growth and execution, while nonprofit culture is all about benefiting a community.
- Nonprofits rely on unpaid volunteers, while almost all employees at for-profit companies are paid a salary.
- Nonprofits have higher financial accountability because of their tax exemptions.
10 tips to get a job at a nonprofit organization
Understanding the nonprofit world and how it differs from corporate America is vital. Comparing nonprofit jobs with for-profit jobs is like comparing apples and oranges. If you’re researching how to work for a nonprofit, remember that it’s very different from the corporate world. Nonprofit jobs define success differently, value different skills, and require different experiences than their for-profit counterparts.
Nonprofit jobs require knowledge, preparation, and strategy skills from real-world experience. Luckily, one of the best ways to find a job is to focus on personal interests and let that passion lead the way. Here is a full list of tips to help you get your dream nonprofit job.
1. Follow your passion
The most important tip is to find a job that fulfills your passion. Take time to explore your interests and all the opportunities in those areas. For example, if you’re passionate about education, you should explore different educational nonprofits instead of environmental ones. Following your passion makes it easier to find a job you’ll love — and then land it.
2. Volunteer to gain experience
Volunteering is a great way to get your foot in the door and learn more about the nonprofit organizations that interest you. It’s also how to get a nonprofit job without experience. If you’re starting to explore potential career paths, volunteering will help you gain relevant experience and show hiring managers how passionate you are. Plus, it’s personally rewarding.
3. Start by searching for local nonprofit jobs
Start your search close to home. It’s likely that many nonprofit positions are available in your area. When you find an organization that sparks your interest, it’s easier to attend in-person interviews, networking events, and volunteer opportunities.
4. Find and apply for internships
Like volunteering, internships help you get your foot in the door and explore what it’s like to work for a specific organization. Nonprofits often have a lot going on and appreciate any help they can get. If you don’t see any available internships posted on a nonprofit’s website, try reaching out directly to see if they need help. You can work with the organization to create a unique internship program.
5. Use social media to find job opportunities
Exploring how to work for a nonprofit requires the use of social media. LinkedIn and other social media platforms are a great way to make yourself more visible and create valuable contacts. These days most nonprofits have a social media presence. If they do, connect with the organization and consider reaching out to current employees in roles that are similar to your interests.
6. Build your network
Networking, in-person or remotely, is always beneficial. This is especially true at nonprofits because they thrive on personal connection. The more people you know, the more likely you will find a great job at an organization where you already have a link and reference.
7. Conduct informational interviews
Informational interviews are the best way to learn more about a nonprofit organization. Reach out to people who currently work at the organization, those who currently work in your dream position at a different organization, and anyone you think might have a long list of their personal connections in the industry.
These “interviews” can be as formal as you want them to be, but make sure to have a list of questions and possible conversation topics ready. These are just as important to prepare for as regular interviews. They’re also a great way to look for signs of a bad company culture.
8. Cast a wide net
Once you’ve explored your current location, it’s time to cast a wider net. There are many opportunities and amazing organizations in just about every field. It’s helpful to have pinpointed interests, but it’s limiting to only look in one area. Surfing the internet and talking to other people about their experiences will help you learn about more possibilities and eventually find a job you love.
9. Make sure you have all the right credentials
Like the for-profit world, you need the proper credentials to get a nonprofit job. Most nonprofit organizations require a college degree and prefer some related experience. Developing interpersonal, written, and verbal communication skills are also helpful. Business, crisis management, information technology, language, and organization skills are bonus points.
10. Build a variety of skills
Finally, focus on building your skill set. Hiring managers look for diverse talents and experiences. More skills and passions mean you will likely stand out and get hired. It also shows you’re interested in learning and helping others.
Creating a resume to apply to a nonprofit
Creating a solid resume is essential no matter what job you’re applying for. Strong resumes follow these guidelines:
- Tailored to the specific organization and position.
- Highlight key skills and qualifications.
- Show creativity and organization.
- Relate career interests and personal passions to the organization’s mission.
- Proofread to avoid formatting and grammar mistakes.
- Emphasize volunteer experiences.
- List experiences in chronological order.
- Quantify and qualify experience.
- Remove irrelevant information.
- Include contact information.
- Present sections about volunteering, continuing education, and interests.
Start your job search with Top Workplaces awarded nonprofits
If you’re unsure how to get a nonprofit job, start by exploring Top Workplaces. These award-winning organizations are determined by employee feedback and recognized for their people-first cultures. Check out the list of best nonprofit organizations to work for and Top Workplaces for the Nonprofit Industry awards.
You might also find it helpful to explore the Top Workplaces for Purpose & Values for more culture excellence organizations that are empowering their employees to do great things.
Are you proud of your nonprofit organization? Get recognized for it! Nominate your organization for Top Workplaces, the employer recognition program that offers awards in 60+ regional markets and national awards for culture and industry excellence.