How to Get a Job in the Not-for-Profit Sector

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Overview

 Many not-for-profits have a similar if not the same hiring procedures as many for-profit companies. It begins with a job being posted or advertised, the not-for-profit accepting resumes and cover letters, interviewing candidates, and then extending job offers.

 However, many people who work for not-for-profits did not find their positions through this process. Below is a guide to networking and finding a job in the not-for-profit sector.

Find a Not-for-profit/Cause You are Passionate About

If you want to work for a not-for-profit, chances are there is a certain cause you feel dedicated to advancing. Whatever that issue or cause may be, find not-for-profits that match your passions. With this learn more about organizations from their website, annual reports, and other resources. If there are organizations that particularly compel you, reach out to them and see if you can learn more about the organization, schedule an informational interview, volunteer, or perhaps even intern.

Volunteer/Intern

Many not-for-profits welcome and utilize volunteers and interns. Many times volunteers or interns for organizations will be given professional level projects to work on or potentially even manage. This process allows you to network with potential employers and other professionals in the not-for-profit field. Furthermore you can gain hands on experience while learning more about the organization you work for. When you are volunteering or interning, make sure you are enthusiastic, doing more than is asked of you, and make a good impression on those at the organization. By doing so you, can get on the inside track to finding jobs. Some not-for-profits will offer positions to volunteers or interns even before they post the openings publicly. At minimum, it will give you exposure and understanding of how not-for-profits work while giving you relevant experience to put on your resume.

Network:

Once you build personal connections at non-for-profits you are potentially interested in working for, stay in touch with former colleagues, supervisors, and anyone else you can. Networking at a not-for-profit is often based on personal relationships and having a shared connection to the organization’s mission. 

Craft Your Resume:

Looking for work in the not-for-profit sector, you will have to tailor your resume to highlight not only your professional skills and accomplishments, but be able to show your passion for the not-for-profit’s mission. Furthermore, select accomplishments and professional skills that show you can work with a diverse group of people as many not-for-profit jobs will require you to work with a wide variety of different people and stakeholders. Finally, as you should do with any resume, look up the company’s mission and who they serve. Be able to pull professional experiences that are relevant for not only the position, but align with the organization as a whole. Also, highlight your own volunteer and/or service experiences.

How to get a Not-for-profit Internship

CCE offers many programs for students interested in getting an internship at a not-for-profit. Check out these resources.

CCIA - The Columbia Communities in Action (CCIA) program provides students with a New York-based internship in the field of civic engagement and not-for-profit.

Kenneth Cole Community Fellows - An innovative program where undergraduate students have the opportunity to gain academic as well as practical experience and insight in becoming community leaders and effective agents of change with academic seminars and also summer internships.

CAE - CAE provides selected students with a New York-based internship in the arts.

How to Pay for an Unpaid Internship - List of resources on how to fund your unpaid internship.

One of the benefits of interning for not-for-profits is the flexibility. While some not-for-profit internships may have a formal process with an application, others will have unlisted internships. Others yet will accept potential interns who first reach out to the organization.  First check out if the organization has a formalized process for accepting applications on their webpage. If not, reach out to the organization by sending an email. From there you can express your interest in the organization and its mission. For some smaller not-for-profits, you may be able to propose various projects you would like to take on for the not-for-profit during your internship. Many not-for-profits will help interns execute and implement projects throughout the course of their internships and allow their interns a considerable level of autonomy during their internship.

Use the links below to search for not-for-profits and to research ones you may like to work, intern, or volunteer for

Non-profit Jobs Seeker - Provides a comprehensive listing of jobs with career tips for going into not-for-profits published by the Non-Profit Times, a national publication for non-profit news.

Philanthropy Journal: Non-profit Jobs Listing- Comprehensive listing of jobs and gives news of trends and happenings within the not-for-profit industry published the Philanthropy Journal.

Opportunity Knocks - A national online job site, HR resource and career development destination focused exclusively on the nonprofit community with jobs listing along with blogs about career development/job searching specific to the not-for-profit sector.

Chronicle of Philantrophy - Comprehensive listing of jobs and gives news of trends and happenings within the not-for-profit industry from The Chronicle of Philantrophy, the U.S.’ number one source for non-profit leaders.