How To Find Nonprofit Jobs

Ready to change the world or just a part of it?  Now you need to turn idealism into a career and find the right job for you to achieve your goals.  Fundamentally, most of us want to do work that is meaningful and helps the world we live in, but the competition can be stiffer than you would imagine and the salaries can be lower than what you might hope.  Nevertheless, the prepared nonprofit hopeful can find the right job with a thorough search and a good bit of patience.

  1. Pick your field and do your research.  Working in the nonprofit world means different things to different people.  Think about the issues and type of work that fuel the fire of your passions and where you want to work.  If your heart is set on saving the oceans, it might be hard to find the right career if you are permanently living in the Midwest, but there might be options for you.  There is a whole wide world of opportunities out there for you to achieve your dreams in the nonprofit world.  Be creative and do not be afraid to take a chance and apply to job listings you find.

  • Evaluate what you have to offer.  Intimidated about making the leap from the for-profit to the nonprofit world?  Many people think they may not have the skills to contribute to their favorite cause.  Just like businesses, nonprofits need accountants, office managers and other professionals.  While it may not be the glamorous side of the nonprofit world, it is vital to improving the effectiveness of the organization's work to have top-quality professionals with important skills that are invaluable in both the for-profit and nonprofit world.
  • Find the major players.  Do your basic Internet research to find the organizations that work on issues that interest you.  It is important to find your range of options in the nonprofit world.  A basic search with keywords targeted toward your interests and including the word "nonprofit" is an easy way to start.
  • Do background research on nonprofits where you hope to work.  This is your career and you want to know as much about the organizations as they will want to know about you. GuideStar and Charity Navigator evaluate nonprofits for financial health and how much of their funds go to programs instead of fundraising.  On both sites, you can look at the IRS tax forms, known as a 990 form, that show the financial statements of the organization, including salaries sometimes, which can be helpful to know if you want to commit your career future to an organization.  If an organization is struggling financially, you may want to continue your job search elsewhere if there are better opportunities.  Small nonprofits will likely pay less than larger nonprofits - another important thing you can learn from background research.  You can learn the top salaries at most nonprofits by reading their tax forms.
  • Volunteer or become a member of nonprofits where you want to work.  Many careers in the nonprofit world have started with volunteer work.  It seems simple enough, but many nonprofit job seekers have little or no experience with the nonprofits where they hope to work.  Your dream job could turn into a nightmare if you take a job without knowing more about the organization or the kind of work you might be doing.  If you have your heart set on a particular field or organization, make sure you get a taste of what your future holds.  To try out a variety of nonprofits, if even for a day, you can try a great resource One Brick that connects local nonprofits with volunteers.
  • NetworkIn addition to becoming a member or volunteering at a nonprofit, you can also join the academic and professional societies or attend the conferences for the issues you want to make your nonprofit career.  In addition to job postings of academic and professional societies, you can learn more about the variety of career options within those issues. Conferences are another great way to learn more and to make the connections that will help you find the right job for you.
  • Search nonprofit job websites.  In the computer age, connecting your passions with employment opportunity can get you on track to finding your dream job.  In addition to the local newspapers and major online job sites, there are also plenty of great resources out there to find a nonprofit job.  Some good places to start:
    • Idealist.Org is a site with job listings all over the world, but focused on US nonprofit positions.  You can search for jobs within the categories and in the locations that are right for you.  Another great tool on the site is their job alerts that send you an email when something is posted with the job criteria that you are seeking.  You can also find volunteer opportunities.  Idealist also sponsors job fairs in major cities, which is another excellent chance to learn more and to interview on the spot.
    • Craig's List is another great resource for finding that perfect gig in the nonprofit world.  Since nonprofit organizations can post their employment announcements for free, many nonprofits also post their ads here so you can search your area by clicking the nonprofit listings under "jobs" category.  Not only does Craig's List support nonprofits by free ads, but the Craig's List Foundation also sponsor a nonprofit boot camp in the San Francisco Bay Area and in New York City.  At the boot camp, you can learn about how to jumpstart your nonprofit career and find out what your options are.  You get the chance to network with other people in the nonprofit world and will be inspired in your job search.
    • job listings offers job listings that include nonprofits, but also eco-friendly and socially-responsible companies that are searchable by location.
    • At Community Career Center, not only can you search for jobs posted for nonprofits, you can also post your résumé so that employers seeking your job skills can find you.
    • OpportunityKnocks.Org offers another job search website and a place to post your résumé.  Center for Philanthropy is a great resource for executive-level and development employment in the nonprofit sector.  You can also learn more about the nonprofit sector on its website.

  • Be realistic.  It is called nonprofit for a reason - you will not get rich.  However, the personal rewards and satisfaction you get from nonprofit work will ultimately mean more to you than your paycheck.  Though comparable jobs in the private sector will pay more, you can see what nonprofit salaries are like by searching.  Remember, small nonprofits have limited budgets and limited positions, which means the salary you get now might be the one you will be living on for years to come if you stick with the organization.
  • Ask questions.  If you make it to the interview stage or even if you are just volunteering, make sure you know about the organization and also make sure they can answer your questions, too.  Know what the future holds and your career with the right nonprofit will be more than a job, but a fulfillment of your passions. 
  • Be patient and persistent.  All job searches are difficult, but it can take longer in the nonprofit world because of the limited number of positions and high number of other interested job seekers.  However, it is worth the wait when you find the right job so you will be rewarded for your hard work when the right opportunity comes along.

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