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How to Land a Job at a Nonprofit

No matter what your field of study, you may find opportunities to pursue your career goals and sharpen your professional skills with a nonprofit organization.

Nonprofits need practitioners, managers and leaders that can provide a high level of service to program recipients, stakeholders and the public. More than 14.4 million people worked at a nonprofit in 2013, according to the National Center for Charitable Statistics.

To land a job with a nonprofit, first consider what you’re passionate about, then obtain the skills you’ll need to be a productive employee while seeking exposure and experience wherever possible.

There are more than 1.5 million nonprofits in the United States. One of the largest, United Way Worldwide, is a $3.9 billion organization, according to Forbes. Focusing on education, income and health, United Way supports a multitude of local and regional organizations through its chapters.

Smaller nonprofits, such as local food banks and animal shelters, work with considerably smaller budgets and staff. There are nonprofits in nearly every industry and field imaginable, including those with religious affiliations. Some nonprofits may be exempt from paying taxes, depending on the Internal Revenue Service’s classifications.

Find Your Passion

Working for a nonprofit may require an emotional attachment to your work. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says nonprofit jobs “provide more challenge, variety, satisfaction and intrinsic rewards” than for-profit or government jobs, and it’s a good idea to determine what cause you’re truly passionate about. Is it civil rights? Animal care? Sports? Underserved communities? The homeless? The arts? Education? Something else?

Get an Education

Nonprofit organizations require a wide variety of skill sets, depending on their size, mission and level of outreach. People interested in providing services to program recipients may consider pursuing a degree in human services, psychology or sociology. Professionals seeking to work in the management and operations of a nonprofit organization may consider degrees in communication, marketing, accounting, finance or business.

Gain Nonprofit Experience

You may want to seek out opportunities to get experience in your desired nonprofit field by volunteering or through an internship. Consider both while you’re still in school or after you’ve graduated. Begin by reaching out to nonprofits you’re interested in. At first, the work might not align with your career goals — perhaps you’ll be cleaning out kennels instead of planning gala fundraisers for an animal shelter. But you’ll do two important things:

  • Show your commitment to the cause.
  • Create a network of contacts that can provide references.

Doing good work may place you at the top of the consideration list if a paid, permanent position opens up.

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