Because everyone should dig their job

Crafting a Resume for a Non-Profit Organization

By Jason Kay

Non-profit agencies do a lot of good work—whether raising money for sick children or finding happy homes for abandoned animals. If you’d like to join the paid ranks of those who work for non-profits, the first step is to put together a resume that will get you noticed and, ultimately, hired.

Remember that first and foremost, a non-profit organization is a business. You may be applying to the agency because of the cute puppies on its publicity materials, but their job is stay in the black. That means they have to take in more money than they spend on their mission. Your potential job is undoubtedly related to that: generating publicity, executing successful events, donor relations, etc.

Most, if not all, non-profits answer to a board of directors—much like a private-sector company answers to its stockholders. Sure, the work you do at a non-profit is generally more altruistic than most other companies, but the bottom line is the same: you have to produce results for your organization to continue its work.

So what does this mean for your resume? It’s essential that you include examples of how you’ve produced results in the past. Your results-driven experience may only include the time you helped the PTA raise $500 through candy sales, but pointing out the results you achieved—“By focusing the kids on specific goals, I helped them increase their totals over the previous year by nearly 15 percent”—makes it relevant.

Other tips for putting together a top-notch resume for a non-profit organization:

Know your audience. Most job seekers are told to eliminate anything from their resume that may provoke a bias from a potential employer—past volunteer work for a particular religion or political affiliation, for example. That’s not necessarily the case when writing a resume for a not-for-profit. If you planned a successful fundraiser for your church and now you want to be an event planner for a non-profit, potential employers are going to look at the fact that you carried off an event successfully—not dwell on your religious preference.

Leave off the small stuff. This may sound like a direct contradiction of the previous tip, but just because you’re applying at a non-profit agency, you don’t need to include every volunteer activity you’ve ever done. While it’s good to demonstrate that you have a giving spirit, the organization probably isn’t looking to hire someone based solely on how many hours a week they stuff envelopes at the Save the Raccoon Foundation.

Don’t dismiss your business experience. The very reason non-profit organizations are able to continue their good work is because someone is running the business. Yes, the business. Take whatever business experience you have—whether that’s balancing the books at a beauty shop or acting as your fraternity’s treasurer, and spin it into how your experience can help the organization’s bottom line.

Highlight your innovative spirit. Non-profits have to do a lot with relatively few resources. They’re looking for someone who can accomplish great things—or at least successfully fulfill their job description—without a lot of material help. Include on your resume how you’ve been innovative on a project on the past.

Play up your flexibility and resourcefulness. Similar to the “do more with less” mentality pervasive in most non-profit agencies is the hard-and-fast rule that things are going to go wrong, generally at the last minute. After you’ve spent months putting together a charity event featuring a four-piece string quartet, that quartet is going to come down with the flu the day before and have to cancel. For you, cancelling the event won’t be an option. Instead, you’ll have to remain flexible. Detail how your past flexibility led to a great outcome.

Include specialized skills. Non-profits are always looking for people who can do double-duty. If you’re applying for an executive position but have experience teaching computer skills, for example, don’t leave that out because you think it’s not relevant to the position. Anything you can bring to the agency that saves them money they can instead spend on their services will put you head and shoulders above your competition.

The last tip about trying to secure a position in the non-profit world is to take a chance. Charitable work is best suited for someone with a lot of energy and enthusiasm for the cause, and a smart hiring manager knows that a go-get-‘em attitude makes up for a lack of specific experience every time. So don’t be afraid to send in your newly crafted resume, even if you don’t meet some of the criteria. Your passion may very well get you an interview, and then the rest is up to you!