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Daily Nuggets: A For Impact Blog

How to Get a ‘Nonprofit’ Job


As an entrepreneur, people often come to me for advice on ‘getting hired’. As someone that lives in the For–Impact-World (read: often, not always not-for-profit arena), people often come to me for advice about getting into field.

I’m posting this primarily as a reference point – some points are unique, some are not. Although first person, I’m just offering an employer’s perspective. I’m 11 for 11 this year in helping friends find something that really works for them. Good luck!

You want a job. I don’t.

Don’t email asking about ‘job openings’… looking for a job. Etc. As someone that hires people, I’m not really motivated about writing another paycheck.

This means most of the traditional ‘job hunting’ stuff is not relevant.

Instead, I’m trying to align myself with people that are super passionate about changing the world – that see this as a vocation, a calling, a purpose. If it’s a job, then YOUR purpose is a paycheck. Substitute ‘Changing the World’ with ‘Serving People’, ‘Inventing the Coolest Technology’, ‘Shaping Young People’, etc.

Don’t send a resume. Do start a conversation.

I don’t even open the randomly received resumes. (1) Don’t have time and (2) those are job hunters… see first point above.

Instead, focus on figuring out what you really want to do and then having a high-level conversation about how to make that happen.

Example: I just had a friend that wanted to get into technology and work with NGO’s around the world. He was having no luck with resumes. Following this point, he selected a few contacts (some via networking and some cold – though networking obviously better). Sent a note similar to the following:

E.g., “I’ve spent the past four years working to build technical infrastructures in Jordan and parts of South America. My path in life has really led me to thinking about ways to use these skills to benefit NGO’s – on the ground in remote regions. …. Got connected with you via the recent Fast Company article. I would love to connect with you for 15-20 minutes about the work you’re doing. Would love to have a 20-minute phone conversation to learn more – see if it makes sense to partner up or if you can help me in this quest.

I will follow-up with a call in the next few days to connect.”

Follow up. Be persistent.

It’s your job to follow-up on that intro letter. Don’t expect to hear anything back… it’s really just a predisposition. Getting an email or call back is a bonus – but don’t expect it.

I’ve posted two jobs to Craigslist in the past three years. I always put my phone number in the ad and encourage people to call. For every 100 resumes, I receive about two phone calls. If you’re not motivated enough to call, then you’re not a fit for us. (I think this works for every company.)

Don’t send a long formal intro letter. Dear Sir/Madam that says you’re still looking for a job.

I want to work with real people.

Be simple – write a short note like above or USE BULLETS. Give me a long email and I think – “Here’s a person with too much time on his hands.” Plus, I want people that move at light speed – that spit out communications in minutes, not hours.

When networking ask this question: “Who would be the best person you know to help me figure out how to find a job like this?” (Note, I’m okay using job in this instance – just don’t use it with your potential employer – two very different audiences.)

EVERYONE is hiring. Always.

They’re just not always desperate enough to put blanket offers on the internet. Good, competent, hard-working people with great attitudes are very hard to find. If you are good, competent, hard-working and have a great attitude, just GET IN THE DOOR and figure out how to start adding value. You will be hired. Volunteer – do whatever you have to do. As soon as you add value, the employer will do whatever she can to keep you. This I promise.

AGAIN. Good, competent, hard-working people with great attitudes are very hard to find.

You may feel like you’re up against the world but you’re not.