Landing a job in the nonprofit sector can be tough. Many people are trying to make a change right now. Standing out from the competition means building a resume that translates your for-profit experience to the non-profit world. In this guide, we will provide tips on how to make your resume stand out for a nonprofit job search.

For-Profit v. Not-for-Profit Employers are Different

To build a resume that stands out in your non-profit job search, it is important to first understand how non-profit employers are different.  The key difference between the 2 is money.

In the for-profit sector, employers hire people that can help the organization make or save money. Ultimately, everything traces back to the bottom line. In contrast, nonprofit employers are designed to execute their mission that has nothing to do with money. Sure, money makes it possible for them to achieve their goals, but it isn't the fundamental motivation of the organization.

This difference is key to building a resume that stands out because it will shape how you communicate your accomplishments and experiences. So, let's get started with the tips that will make your resume stand out in a non-profit search!

Start with the Basics

It may seem obvious, but your resume should start with your contact details. So many people forget to include all of the basic details that make it possible for non-profit employers to contact them for an interview.

The contact details that you should include at the top of your resume are:

  • First & Last Name - you don't need to use your legal name here. But, you do need to include your name in a professional manner at the top of your resume.
  • City, State, Zip - candidate location is an increasing filter for employers that want someone in a particular area. They don't want your street address, but the nonprofits do want to know that you are in an area covered by their mission.
  • Phone - you want to give the employer the ability to call you for an interview, offer, etc. So, include your best number at the top of the resume.
  • Email - most initial contacts will be done by email or text. Make sure that you include a professional-looking email on your nonprofit resume.
  • LinkedIn or Other Relevant Profile - employers will look for you online. Make it easy for them by including your profile links at the top of your resume.

Remember the ATS

Nonprofit organizations are also using applicant tracking systems (ATS) to sort and filter their candidates. In fact, many non-profit organizations use some of the same systems as their for-profit counterparts.

Smaller non-profits do not typically use an ATS. However, they will be using job boards to find candidates for their jobs. And, the employer side of job boards is basically an ATS - it uses keywords and fields to capture data to enable people to search through the applicants.

This means that anyone applying to a nonprofit online (through a careers page or a job board or any other website) should do so with a resume built for the ATS. This means using keywords and a format that works with the software.

Tailor Your Resume

Customizing your resume is particularly important for nonprofit job searches. First, you can customize the keywords and details on the resume for the particular jobs that you are applying to. This will make sure that you stand out from other candidates.

But, more importantly, the missions of the non-profits and the people or communities that they serve will be different. The people reviewing your application will be looking for your dedication to their mission and trying to understand how your for-profit experience translates to their not-for-profit mission. Make it easy for this person by clearly stating these details on your resume.

You can't get the interview if you don't sell them on your qualification and fit for the role with your resume. So, take the time to articulate the exact details that you want to emphasize in the interview right on your resume.

Soft Skills Matter

Soft skills are equally important for a nonprofit. This is because teams are often smaller with budget limitations. So, you need to be a fit for the culture of the nonprofit in order to get hired.

So, when you are writing your nonprofit resume make sure that you spend some time highlighting these soft skills in addition to your hard skills and experiences. These are the skills that will enable you to be successful in a nonprofit role.

Examples of soft skills relevant for nonprofit resumes are:

  • Communication
  • Leadership
  • Culturally Responsive
  • Organized
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Self-Motivated
  • Time Management
  • Adaptable
  • Driven
  • Committed
  • Dedicated

Focus on their Mission

Do your research to understand what the goals of the nonprofit are and how your experience translates. Make sure to incorporate your research on the resume by emphasizing the aspects of your experience that would benefit the organization.

Remember, a resume is simply a marketing piece to position you as qualified for the nonprofit job that you want. So, make sure that you are including details about your experience on the resume that are relevant to the mission of the nonprofit that you are applying to.

The requirement to show commitment to the mission of the nonprofit only increases as you progress in your career. This means that the more senior of a role that you are pursuing the more focus and commitment to their mission and needs are expected.

Build Strong Achievement Statements

All employers, for-profit or not-for-profit, are comparing candidates based on their accomplishments. This means that your resume should include clear statements about your results in your past jobs.

For nonprofit resumes, you will want to focus on how your accomplishments related to their mission. This can be difficult if you are coming from a for-profit background and don't have direct experience with the nonprofit's mission. But, it is still possible to find examples of your work that show how you helped further the goals of an organization - even if that organization was for-profit.

Some examples might be:

  • Leading a team of people to reach a common goal
  • Working with diverse groups of people
  • Solving complex problems
  • Creating or streamlining processes
  • Achieving goals in the face of adversity or limited budgets

Remember, you want to make it as easy as possible for the nonprofit to see how you will be an asset to their organization. So, don't be afraid to be specific and detailed about your accomplishments on your resume.

Include Volunteer Experience

Volunteerism is important for any non-profit job search. Including the details about your volunteering on your resume shows that you are committed to giving back.  It also provides context for some of your experiences if you don't have direct nonprofit experience.

When listing your volunteer experiences make sure to include:

  • The name of the nonprofit
  • The dates that you volunteered
  • Your role within the organization
  • A description of what your responsibilities were
  • Any relevant accomplishments that you achieved while volunteering

If you don't have direct nonprofit experience, volunteer experiences are a great way to show that you are committed to their mission.

Add Faith-Based Experience as Relevant

In many cases, your faith-based experiences or commitments can be relevant to your non-profit job search. This is true even if you aren't applying to jobs in the spiritual areas of the non-profit.

For example, if you have experience leading a team of people or working with diverse groups of people, this can be relevant to many nonprofit roles - even if your faith-based experiences didn't directly relate to the mission of the nonprofit.

When including faith-based experiences on your resume make sure to include:

  • The name of the organization
  • The religious affiliation of the organization
  • The dates that you were involved
  • Your role within the organization
  • A description of what you did
  • Any relevant accomplishments that you achieved while volunteering including any ministerial contributions

Including the faith-based experiences on your resume may vary depending on the types of roles and organizations that you are applying to. But, thinking about how and when you do so can make a huge difference to the success of your nonprofit job search.

Personal Details Can Matter

Who you are as a person can matter to nonprofits - a lot. As noted above, non-for-profit organizations are often smaller and are looking for cultural fit. This means what your interests are and who you are outside of work can be important to them.

For purposes of your resume, make sure to include a personal interests section on your resume at the bottom. This will help to humanize your application and it can create talking points for you in the interview.

Keep the personal interests section professional and remember that a potential employer will see these details. But, these details should still reflect your genuine interests outside of work.

Examples of personal interests include:

  • Sports that you participate in regularly (could be rec leagues or individual)
  • Sports that you coach for your kids or the community
  • Hobbies that make you interesting or that you love to talk about
  • Personal passions that also add to your skills or abilities to connect with people
  • Interesting factoids like how much you have traveled, places you have lived or novel skills that people may not have

Include a Highlights Section

A highlights section makes it easy for the person skimming your resume to quickly see your biggest results and can grab their attention. Most people applying to nonprofit jobs forget to include this section. This makes it a big opportunity to stand out from other candidates by including it on your nonprofit resume.

When adding a highlights section make sure to:

  • Keep it limited to 3 - 5 highlights
  • Use powerful language that grabs attention - try using verbs like "secured," "created" or "initiated"
  • Make the results as tangible and specific as possible by including numbers, percentages, or other data
  • Incorporate keywords or language that is relevant to the nonprofit that you are applying to
  • Think about the highlights as talking points for your interview and make sure to include examples that you actually want to talk about.
  • Only include results or details about the skills that you want to do in the future. If the highlight required you to learn a new skill that you don't want to focus on in the future, then leave it out.

Proofread, Proofread, Proofread

Finally, and most importantly, make sure to proofread and edit your resume. A strong non-for-profit resume is free of any grammatical or spelling errors.

If you are unsure about how to proofread your nonprofit resume, ask a friend or family member to read it for you. If possible, find someone who has experience with resumes or hiring.

Another option is to hire a professional resume writer or editor. This can be especially helpful if you have trouble editing your own work or don't know how to make your nonprofit resume stand out.

When you are ready to start applying to nonprofit jobs, use these tips to create a strong nonprofit resume that will help you get hired. Build a strong message and put your resume to work in your nonprofit job search today!

If you have been looking for a while and are already doing many of the things above, it may be time to consider investing in a professional resume writer. It could be that your resume is holding you back. Professional resume writers like our team at The Contingent Plan know what the best practices are and will build your resume for the technology that is used by the nonprofits.


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