Job Search: How to Break Into the Nonprofit Sector

Are you looking for a fresh start with a job in the nonprofit sector? January is a great time of year to make a career change. If you are ready to transition into a new role, tackle a new organization and enhance your resume for the nonprofit sector, there are few things to consider.

First, nonprofit hiring and for-profit hiring can be vastly different. It’s not uncommon for nonprofits to hire through a committee, which can slow down the process. Additionally, nonprofits may lack funding to post on national job search websites. ABN’s nonprofit job board is specifically designed for posting opportunities in Knoxville and the surrounding counties.

Nonprofit Job Search

Don’t hesitate to apply to an organization that isn’t currently posting any jobs. I was hired at the YWCA Knoxville after applying before there was a need for my skills.

Common Mistakes Include:

  1. Typos or misspellings on your resume or cover letter is a deal breaker. Nonprofits don’t have the time or funds to proofread your work when you’re hired so be sure you demonstrate attention to detail on all correspondence.
  1. Not showing a passion for the organization’s mission will hurt your chances greatly. Nonprofit professionals eat, sleep and breathe their mission so be sure to demonstrate how personally invested you are in their cause.
  1. Wanting the big bucks. Nonprofit staff deserve to be paid as well as a for-profit employee, but in reality, not all nonprofit jobs pay dollar-for-dollar what a for-profit position pays. Have realistic monetary expectations and hold off on asking about compensation until deeper into the interview process. Nonprofits typically offer great non-monetary benefits, not the least of which is the fulfilling opportunity to make an impact on the community everyday.
  1. Lack of nonprofit information can deter your chances for a second-interview. When I interview someone, I expect them to have a wealth of knowledge about our nonprofit. Applicants should know the mission, values, programs and services of the organization. In addition to the nonprofit’s website, check all social media outlets and local news stories. Do not underestimate the value of Google. 
385 Elle Benson is the Director of Capacity Building for the Alliance for Better Nonprofits (ABN), East Tennessee’s nonprofit resource center. She oversees the educational development and consulting practices at ABN. Elle brought ten years of nonprofit and business consulting experience into assisting in the creation of ABN. Her nonprofit experience includes fundraising, nonprofit program development, nonprofit and corporate marketing, human resources, board governance, and strategic planning. She holds a certification in board governance from BoardSource, a global network advancing board governance practices. She also has a certificate in group facilitation. She earned a business degree from the Haslam College of Business, and she completed her MBA in leadership and organizational change at Tiffin University. She currently teaches nonprofit management for the University of Tennessee Non-Credit Programs. Elle enjoys being involved in the community, having served on eight nonprofit boards. She is currently serving on boards and committees for the Association of Infant Mental Health in Tennessee, Friends of Literacy, United Way of Greater Knoxville, and Young Professionals of Knoxville.