Working for a Nonprofit: Making the Leap

Working for a Nonprofit: Making the Leap

Have you considered making the leap from working for a company to working for a nonprofit? Are you wondering what adjustments need to be made to your resume to resonate with nonprofit hiring managers? Many of my clients have successfully transitioned from the corporate world to the nonprofit and, while they have made some sacrifices regarding their compensation, they feel fulfilled working for organizations whose missions they wholly support.

What Type of Nonprofit?: The first thing to remember if you are considering working for a nonprofit is that they fall under an enormous umbrella of diverse groups including—to name a few—social service organizations, art museums, schools, and professional associations. Additionally, some nonprofit organizations are global, some are national, and some are local. So, before you take a deep-dive, do some research on the nonprofit employers in your area. You can visit a site such as Indeed to get the lay of the land.

The Org Chart at a Nonprofit: A nonprofit’s organizational structure is no mystery: it is very similar to a corporation’s. As a matter of fact, their organizational charts probably mirror your own company’s. Ultimately, “nonprofit” is only a tax status. But with that tax status comes a great deal of attention to overhead, CEO compensation, and “ratio”— which is the metric used to determine how much of an organization’s budget goes to overhead and how much to programs and services. (To read more about ratios, visit Guidestar.)

What does “Development” Mean in a Nonprofit?: When you begin searching for open nonprofit positions, you will find a lot of positions with “development” in the title—and it may have you scratching your head. For the many nonprofits dependent upon fundraising, development is a crucial department and is dedicated to raising funds. It can include work such as grant writing, planning fundraising events, writing appeal letters, managing alumni relations, and seeking major gifts from individual and corporate donors. Development has no equivalent in the corporate world although many of the skills needed to thrive in development—such as relationship building, excellent communications, and the ability to perform research—are the same skills coveted by corporate managers. (To learn more about development and fundraising, visit AFP (Association of Fundraising Professionals.)

Transferable Skills and Your Resume: Because of the similar organizational structure between companies and nonprofits, your work experience—be it in marketing, public relations, event planning, sales, accounting, human resources, etc.—is highly transferable. The challenge is crafting your resume in such a manner that it resonates with hiring managers—as well as convincing managers that you will be satisfied with the lower end of a position’s salary range. Perhaps more than in any other situation, making the leap from working for a company to working for a nonprofit requires a compelling cover letter because it provides the opportunity for sincerity and enthusiasm.

Do Your Research: When you do identify the nonprofits that you believe you would like to work for, don’t forget to do your homework as you would for any other company: simply being a nonprofit does not automatically make an organization a good place to work.

Making the leap from working for a company to working for a nonprofit can be a highly satisfying career move. But make sure to get all your ducks in a row before you plunge headfirst into the fray.

If you need support in planning your job search and updating your resume, contact San Francisco-based resume writer, Robin Kelley, at Resume Preferred to schedule an introductory call.

If you’re a senior executive and are seeking to capture and convey your value in the marketplace—and achieve the next level of career success—contact Leadership Career Consultant Amy Phillip.