How to Find a Great Nonprofit Job

Written by
Rebecca Smith

Sep 10, 2020

Sep 10, 2020 • by Rebecca Smith

Since last March the job market has changed so radically that many job experts say they can hardly recognize it anymore. The pandemic has left a permanent mark on the economies of nations everywhere, and the result is that career choices for most people just entering the job market have shrunk considerably -- and, fortunately, have metamorphosed so that brand new career opportunities await those adventurous (or maybe just desperate) enough to take a chance on the kind of work they would not have considered as a viable career option just a year ago.


But that’s the name of the game in hunting for a good career -- flexibility. As the old saying has it -- When one door closes, another one opens up. It may not be a job you initially thought of as desirable, or even in existence; but persistence and curiosity pay off when hunting for work. So, whether you’re just out of college looking to get started or an older person who suddenly finds themselves out of work or facing that imminent prospect, there’s a silver lining that you should be examining very carefully to see if it will meet your career and financial needs.


Nonprofit careers


A not-for-profit corporation is still a business, of sorts, and has need of many types of staff workers. And most of them make decent salaries. 


Surprised? Don’t be. Just remember that there's a vast difference between being an unpaid volunteer for a nonprofit organization and becoming one of their paid staff members. Despite the economic downturn the world has experienced due to the pandemic, many nonprofits have actually seen a rise in their donation incomes -- which they put to good use not only by helping more people, but by hiring more staff to help more people. Charity doesn’t happen by osmosis; there have to be trained personnel to get the ball rolling and to supervise the disbursement of funds and services. That’s where the career nonprofit worker comes in. If you take the time to talk to any staff member of a nonprofit enterprise, you’ll likely find that they really like their work and feel that it contributes something towards the betterment of society -- and, let’s be honest, the work is usually steady and can be very well-paid. 


That being said, there is a downside to getting a paid position at a nonprofit -- the common lack of clear communication between the prospective employee and the prospective employer. At a normal corporate organization the HR department has things organized so that interviewees are always aware of where they stand in the non profit board interview questions process. But with nonprofits one of the things that is usually left to chance or to the janitor is the creating, reviewing, and sending of important information to prospective staff. Why? It’s one of the many ways that a nonprofit keeps its overhead as low as possible -- to put it bluntly, they skimp on proper communications.

Still, there’s no reason not to try for a good nonprofit job. The area is just crying out for stable, competent people who can put their compassion and skills to good use. You may very possibly be one of them.


Let’s look as how the process can work successfully for you:


Make the right connections by volunteering 

In many ways the nonprofit world is a close knit community; it seems like everyone knows everyone else. And it can be hard to break into this seemingly exclusive group in order to get a decent interview for a job opening, let alone even find out about a job opening. But that’s not really the case. The way most nonprofits find their personnel is by observing the work of unpaid volunteers in areas where they are looking to hire. For instance, suppose you are an unpaid volunteer, doing the accounts for a youth group; at some point your work likely will be noticed by someone who is looking for an accountant in their own nonprofit company, or has a colleague looking for someone to keep the books. A brief introduction leads to a hiring interview, and if you play your cards right you begin your paid position in a matter of weeks.


Remember that when dealing with a nonprofit HR you’re probably dealing with an unpaid volunteer

HR is another area where most nonprofits skimp in order to save money to help their clients. So when you go in for an interview, realize you are dealing with someone who is probably feeling overworked and underappreciated, and may not have very much time or information to make an in-depth assessment. That’s why it’s important to lead with your volunteer experience. Let them know that you have been in their shoes, and that you’ve done it successfully and cheerfully for a specific period of time. Be considerate of their time. And, if you sense a job offer pending, take the initiative and invite them out to lunch to continue the interview -- your treat. Unpaid volunteers are often hungry and living on a strict budget -- a free meal may clinch the deal for you!