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.


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.