Student Guide to Resumes for Nonprofit Jobs and Careers

Volunteer service is one of the ways people interact with nonprofit organizations (NPOs), with almost 65 million adult Americans donating their time in 2017, according to the Statista Research Department. It’s easy to see how volunteers play a large and important role in the way nonprofits run, but these organizations also hire paid employees.

The word “nonprofit” describes how an organization functions. An NPO is a tax-exempt organization with a mission to provide benefits and services to the public at low to no cost. Nonprofits raise and earn money like a for-profit business, but instead of those earnings going to shareholders, they’re put back into the organization. For-profits, on the other hand, are owned and operated with the mission of making money through the sale of a product or service, and profits are kept by the owner or paid out to investors.

Anyone looking for a paid position within the nonprofit sector can begin their search just like they would for any other job, but with a few exceptions in mind. In this guide, we’ll go over nonprofit resume specifics, the most popular NPOs and common positions as well as where to look for jobs in the industry.

How to Create a Nonprofit Resume

Building a resume for a nonprofit position is going to be the same as any other job, but with a few adjustments. The job description given by the hiring organization should guide you on what information to include on your resume and how you present it. NPOs have different goals and work atmospheres than for-profit companies, and these differences should be considered when creating your resume. If you don’t have much professional experience, that’s okay. You’ll want to speak more to your skills, education, and volunteer work. Indeed, relatively inexperienced workers should consider using a hybrid style for their resume — this format allows job seekers to list skills at the top of the page and use a highlights section to showcase key achievements that may be relevant to the job. We’ll review how to strategically set up your resume for a nonprofit job below, but first let’s go over the basic format and content of a resume:

  • Contact information. The header of a resume should contain your name, phone number, email address, and mailing address — the hiring manager needs to know how to contact you for interviews and follow-ups. Use a professional-looking template that will highlight your name and provide enough space to add all of your contact info. If you’re concerned about privacy, you can just list your city, state, and zip code rather than your full mailing address. You should also add “open to relocating” if the position is based outside your area. If your LinkedIn profile is complete, include a link to it with your contact information as well. Although we call this contact information section a header, you shouldn’t actually use the header feature in your word processor, as this may make the data unreadable for applicant tracking system (ATS) software.
  • Objective. The old days of having a section called “Objective” with a brief statement such as “To obtain an entry-level position as a program coordinator” are behind us. Under your contact information, you can simply put the job title you are aiming for in large, bold font (for example, “PROGRAM COORDINATOR”) to catch the reader’s attention and improve your ATS ranking. Under that, you can write a short summary of two to five sentences that describes how you are qualified for the role. Using the job description as a guide for your language is quite helpful for this section. Recent college graduates and other entry-level workers can skip this part altogether and lead with their Education section.
  • Professional experience. Study the job description and requirements to make sure that you provide examples of similar work that you’ve done before. If you have worked both inside and outside of the NPO industry, you can highlight your most relevant experience by breaking this section down into two categories. Start with a “Related Experience” or “Nonprofit Experience” section that lists all of your NPO jobs or internships. Then, you can add a separate category called “Additional Experience” for your other jobs.
  • Education and relevant coursework. Education is valuable to nonprofit employers. Provide your educational history, including any degrees, certifications, or classes suited to the position you’re applying for. List your educational accomplishments from the highest level to the lowest instead of chronological order. Be sure to mention any special achievements or honors and include high GPAs if you can. If you are light on experience, you may want to dig into your coursework further. Consider expanding the category or creating others such as “Research” or “Projects”. This is an opportunity to describe what you learned in a particular course and how you applied the knowledge, and it can help you add keywords from the job description for your ATS ranking. Also, a great way for college students or recent graduates to add experience is to have a section for campus/community activities. For example, you may have been active in a fraternity or sorority that took part in fundraising for a particular charity — if so, this information is certainly worth including in your resume.
  • Volunteer experience. Highlighting your volunteer work is a way for you to showcase your interest in service. Volunteers are an integral part of NPOs, and any work you’ve done with an NPO will act as experience in the nonprofit sector. Expand on what kind of work you accomplished in a way that relates to the job you want. List what you were responsible for and how you executed your responsibilities. You should list the name of the organization, a sentence describing their mission, and your dates of service as well. Try to focus not only on what you did but also on the outcomes. For example, you could write “Prepared, packaged, and delivered meals to 50 homebound elderly individuals weekly”. If you are looking for volunteer opportunities, check out local hospitals, nursing care facilities, and schools. Your university may also have a program for providing students with volunteer work, and you can use resources such as Idealist and VolunteerMatch.
  • Skills. List the skills you’ve acquired through your professional, educational, and volunteer experience. Use the job description to make sure you’re speaking to what the organization is looking for in a candidate. In this section, focus on hard skills such astechnical expertise or foreign language proficiency.Soft skills such as communication, problem solving, and time management should instead be woven into your descriptions throughout the resume.

Nonprofit resume templates

In addition to all the usual information covered above, you can further optimize your resume to stand out among other candidates using a few methods. Most NPOs use ATS software to handle the large volume of applications they receive. There are ways to work with these systems to ensure your resume doesn’t get lost in the sea of applicants. We’ll go over things like how to pull keywords from the position’s job description, requirements, and responsibilities to create a relevant resume. Learn how to perfect your nonprofit resume by looking at some examples and incorporating the tips we’ve put together specifically for nonprofit applicants.

  • 2-3 Years 2-3 Years
  • 5-10 Years 5-10 Years
  • 10+ Years 10+ Years

Hailey Hernandez
(123) 456-7891
[email protected]
3616 Canary Road, Anchorage, AK 99501

Profile

Committed nonprofit development professional with 2+ years in the industry who has exceeded fundraising goals year over year. A strong grant writer who has already served as lead on a grant awarded for half a million dollars. Excellent skills in event planning and execution, web-based donor relationships, and advertising design.

Professional Experience

Development Coordinator, Abused Women Aid in Crisis (AWAIC), Anchorage, AK
September 2018 – Present

  • Identify new donors and negotiate funding
  • Assist with grant writing; served as lead writer on a grant AWAIC won for $500,000
  • Plan a realistic budget for events and account for anticipated fundraising outcomes
  • Design flyers, posters, ads, and social media posts to promote fundraising events
  • Raised $2.5 million through individual and corporate donations

Education

Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing
University Of Alaska, Fairbanks, AK, August 2013 – May 2017

Key Skills

  • Grant Writing
  • Donor Relations
  • Company Partnerships
  • Event Planning
  • Budgeting
  • Data Analysis
  • Raiser’s Edge

Adam Trenton
(123) 456-7891
[email protected]
5901 Thrasher Road, Atlanta, GA 71913

Profile

Passionate community engagement professional with 5+ years nonprofit experience and a natural gift for making order out of chaos. Additionally, I have a history of coveted recruitment results and garnering commitments from various groups ranging from large corporations to volunteers and individual donors.

Professional Experience

Community Engagement Manager, Atlanta Humane Society, Atlanta, GA
October 2019 – Present

  • Foster positive community relationships through participation in local events, youth programs, social media threads, surveys, monthly community luncheon forums, and more
  • Monitor success of engagement strategies using data
  • Saw a 25% increase in community engagement through local college partnerships
  • Established staff volunteer day agreements with 32 large corporations in the Atlanta area

Digital Marketing Specialist, Amherst Realtors, Amherst, MA
May 2016 – May 2018

  • Recruited, trained, and placed approximately 600 volunteers
  • Maintained working relationships with over 85 partner agencies
  • Provided supervision for and kept up-to-date files on all volunteers
  • Perform outreach, networking, and other marketing as needed to recruit and educate potential donors, volunteers, and partners

Education

Bachelor of Arts in Public Administration
Auburn University Auburn, AL, August 2013 – May 2017

Key Skills

  • Logistics
  • Community Outreach
  • Database Management
  • Networking
  • Social Media
  • Event Planning

Hannah Watson
(123) 456-7891
[email protected]
352 Aesop Street, Indianapolis, IN 46113

Profile

Gifted leader and nonprofit expert with 10+ years of experience growing programs, motivating volunteers and staff, and providing administrative excellence. Earned a master’s in public administration and several awards for strategic planning.

Professional Experience

Youth Development Program Director, YMCA of Greater Indianapolis, Indianapolis, IN
November 2020 – Present

  • Oversee and evaluate five program managers and 15 program coordinators
  • Prepare program budgets, administer approved sums, and ensure that agreed-upon allocations are followed
  • Ensure program compliance with state and local regulations
  • Analyze data to anticipate and forecast future program needs
  • Spearhead efforts to bring in new participants and saw a 40% increase in youth signups over one year

Program Manager, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Indiana, Indianapolis, IN
May 2014 – October 2020

  • Recruited, trained, and supervised program coordinators, support staff, and volunteers
  • Commended for lowest percentage of volunteer turnover statewide for three years in a row
  • Ensured program coordinators’ produced high-quality comprehensive reports and recommendations regarding volunteer participation
  • Oversaw and occasionally facilitated volunteer-participant matches

Youth Program Coordinator, YMCA of Greater Indianapolis, Indianapolis, IN
August 2010 – April 2014

  • Managed and coordinated youth enrichment activities for the largest YMCA in Indiana
  • Assisted in the development of annual curriculum and training calendars
  • Developed creative motivational strategies to improve staff morale and productivity which the program director chose to implement
  • Reviewed and edited over 600 pages of budget, curricula, and grant proposals

Education

Master of Public Administration
University Of Indiana, Bloomington, August 2012 – May 2017

Bachelor of Science in Sociology
Southern New Hampshire University – Online Program, August 2007 – May 2010

Key Skills

  • Active Listening
  • Storytelling
  • Leadership
  • Recruitment
  • Program Models and Evaluation
  • Strategic Planning

What Can You Do? Common Jobs at Nonprofits

Nonprofits hire people for all kinds of positions within their organizations. NPOs handle large amounts of money through donations and need financial experts in positions like accounting, money management, and budgeting. Managers are needed to keep interns, employees, and volunteers organized and doing what they need to do. Top leadership positions keep the large teams of people on target and act as the face of an organization. There is an abundance of opportunity in the nonprofit sector for those interested in the industry. Let’s go over some common jobs you can hold with an NPO:

Fundraiser+

A fundraiser works with charities to collect money from donors. They interact with the public face-to-face as the nonprofit’s storyteller, informing them of how their funding will impact people in need. This is a great position for outgoing people who are passionate about sharing information with the public on how they can make a difference with their dollars. Individuals in this position may even get to go door-to-door to raise funds provided by the public. This job is sometimes referred to as “Philanthropy Chair” or “Fundraising Coordinator”. Whichever name an organization uses for this role, the bottom line is that you will be supporting the efforts to bring in donations. There are usually administrative support roles who work under this position.

Office Coordinator+

The role of an office coordinator is to assist in daily operations and fundraising for an NPO office. They develop budgets and keep accurate records that are subject to audits. In smaller organizations, the office coordinator is often also responsible for volunteer supervision, which involves organizing orientations and training for newcomers and then determining the best placement for each volunteer.

Volunteer Coordinator+

Managing volunteers tends to be a full-time job in larger NPOs, which is why such organizations usually have a separate Volunteer Coordinator position in addition to their Office Coordinator. They are responsible for recruiting, training, and organizing volunteers. Some organizations have an ongoing need for volunteers, while others recruit volunteers as needed for large-scale events (these short-term recruitment efforts are known as “drives”).

Communications Coordinator+

This role involves implementing the organization's communications strategy. A communication coordinator’s responsibilities can include writing press releases, creating web content, managing social media channels, and designing marketing materials for events. Creativity is key for this role, and familiarity with tech solutions such as social media management platforms and content management systems may also be required.

Grant Writer+

Using their literary skills, a grant writer works to raise support from corporations and government entities through letters of intent, grant proposals, and applications. Their job is to persuade grant-making foundations to fund their organization’s projects and services. The writer must research and develop a deep understanding of the NPO, their programs, and their mission.

Data Scientist+

Many NPOs design studies, conduct surveys, and take on other projects that involve collecting and analyzing data. To be considered for this role, you will likely need at least a bachelor’s degree in data science. Many organizations require more advanced degrees and extensive experience as well.

Senior Accountant+

The senior accountant is responsible for tasks like creating annual budget goals, monitoring cash flow, and handling all things finance for an NPO. They advise financial leaders and monitor loans, statements, and reports. This position requires a degree and accounting experience. View examples of senior accountant resumes.

Executive Director+

An executive director acts as an organization’s leader and spokesperson. They are the ones who lead staff members, strategically plan the annual budget, and oversee all programs. The executive director makes sure all operations are running smoothly and works to inspire their team to stay focused on annual goals. A significant amount of experience is required for this role.

Where Can You Work? The Largest Nonprofit Employers

Top NPOs in the U.S. are doing serious business. According to The NonProfit Times, almost $80 billion of revenue was brought in by the top 100 nonprofits in 2021. Whether you want to work for a small local chapter or an NPO giant, the nonprofit sector has a diverse collection of organizations to choose from. If you know what kind of social change or community service you would like to get involved in, you’ll be able to narrow down what kind of organization to pursue a career with. Here’s a short list of some of the nation’s largest nonprofit employers:

Direct Relief. Direct Relief is focused on improving the health and lives of people affected by humanitarian and disaster emergencies. It is one of the nation’s largest medical charity programs, equipping health care professionals in communities with poor resources and meeting the medical needs of impoverished people. Visit the Direct Relief website to view current job openings.

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. St. Jude’s has a mission to “treat and defeat” life-threatening childhood diseases, including cancer. It is working to advance the search for cures and how to prevent these illnesses in the first place. Patients at St. Jude’s never have to worry about paying for treatment and life necessities for the duration of their care. Be part of the change this nonprofit is making in the world by visiting its website to view current job openings.

Feeding America. The vision of Feeding America is to have a nation in which no one goes hungry. It is an organization focused on ensuring all have equal access to nutritious foods. Every county in the nation has a Feed America chapter, providing meals to their low-income and vulnerable populations through food banks, food pantries, and meal programs. Beyond providing food, the nonprofit partners with other organizations to connect the people they serve to housing, health care, and job resources. Learn more on the Feeding America website and view current job openings.

Habitat for Humanity International. The Habitat for Humanity organization creates opportunities for families to afford homeownership, focusing on instilling confidence and self-reliance. Its vision is to have “A world where everyone has a decent place to live,” which sums up the organization’s goal. Although the nonprofit is religiously affiliated, it enforces a non-proselytizing policy that ensures individuals who receive assistance won’t feel obligated to convert to any faith system. View current job openings on the Habitat for Humanity website.

Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Established over 100 years ago, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America is an organization working to enable young people across the nation to lead responsible and productive lives. It approaches this work by providing a safe space for youth and access to life-enhancing programs run by trained mentors who care. You can learn more about joining forces with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and view current job openings on the organization’s website.

United Way. With over 2 million volunteers and 9 million donors, United Way’s network of nearly 1,800 affiliate organizations are collectively one of the largest NPOs in the world. Their programs are focused on improving education, health, and financial stability. If you’re interested in joining a United Way affiliate, you can visit their website to view current job openings.

YMCA. Founded back in 1844, the YMCA is based in Geneva and has a presence in 120 different countries. They’re active in over 10,000 communities across the United States, and their programs include youth sports, child care, summer camps, group exercise classes, and volunteer community service. Hundreds of career opportunities are available with this NPO — you can view current job openings on the YMCA website.

Catholic Charities USA. This NPO was founded over a hundred years ago at the Catholic University of America in Washington D.C. They support a number of different social welfare initiatives, including affordable housing, immigration advocacy, nutrition programs, and disaster relief. Those who are interested in joining this organization can view current job openings by visiting their website.

The Salvation Army. This organization, which is famous for their red kettle collection pots and active presence during the Christmas season, provides homeless shelters, food pantries, job training programs, and veteran services. Overall, they assist approximately 30 million Americans annually. If you’d like to work for The Salvation Army, visit their website to view current job openings.

Where Should You Look for Work? Nonprofit Job Boards

NPOs use standard online job boards like LinkedIn and Indeed to post open positions, but there are also websites dedicated solely to nonprofit work. These websites are often also NPOs, providing a large collection of job listings and resources to people looking for a position in the industry. We’ve provided a list below, detailing some nonprofit-specific job board websites.

Idealist

Idealist is an NPO itself with a mission to connect job seekers to social-impact careers, internships, and volunteer work. Not only does the website function as an online job board, Idealist is publishing free content to help professionals optimize their approach through career advice articles. Job hunters can create an account, upload their resume, and sift through thousands of opportunities. Visit the Idealist website to learn more and start your nonprofit job search.

Encore

The Encore organization is creating a multigenerational workforce by bringing young and experienced minds together to generate change and solve problems. It encourages individuals in their “encore” stage of life (50 and older) to reinvent their vision in retirement by joining Encore to “make a living and a difference.” Encore runs eight programs, which include services like partnering mentors with young adults in the community, and even within the medical field by providing new clinicians with retired physician mentors. Adults over 50 years can visit the Encore website to look for available jobs in the nonprofit sector.

Work for Good

Founded in 1999, Work for Good was one of the first mission-driven online job boards. This is another nonprofit that works to help others find work in the nonprofit sector. Jobseekers can create an account to save information, get a free resume review, and apply directly on the website. Account holders are also able to opt in for job alerts that are related to your interest, allowing Work for Good to send email notifications for relevant new job listings. The career insight page on the organization’s website has over 100 articles offering guidance and advice on a variety of career-related topics. Visit the website to learn more.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy

The Chronicle of Philanthropy is a physical and digital newspaper focused on providing news to influential people in the nonprofit sector and other interested individuals. Aside from the latest announcements and stories, there is a job board available for people looking to land a nonprofit job. Anyone can search the job postings, but you will need to create an account if you want to apply directly through the website. The Chronicle also offers monthly subscriptions, allowing members to receive 18 annual print copies and gain unlimited access to online articles, statistics, and resources. Learn more by visiting The Chronicle of Philanthropy website.

NonProfitJobs.org

This NPO job board is updated with new opportunities frequently. Some of the most prominent organizations in the country, such as the World Wildlife Fund and the ACLU, often use this service. Another benefit for job seekers is that their search tool is highly customizable — you can filter your results by location, job type, primary skill, and several other factors. Visit their website if you’d like to learn more.

Working for Nonprofits FAQ

Do employees at nonprofits get paid?+

NPOs pay their employees if they were hired on as a paid employee, whereas volunteers do not get paid. Nonprofits hire people for jobs in a variety of categories like finance, fundraising, administration, and customer service. They often include benefits packages and can be hourly or salaried positions.

What are the benefits of working for a nonprofit?+

Aside from the actual health benefits that organizations may offer, there are real advantages to working for a nonprofit. The missions and goals of a nonprofit are usually centered around helping others, which can be a very fulfilling environment for people. Even if you don’t have direct contact with the people affected by the organization’s cause (for example, you may find work as a web designer for the American Cancer Society), you’ll still know that you are contributing to a greater good. Also, employees are often cross-trained in other areas and can gain experience outside of their own role.

What are the disadvantages of working for a nonprofit?+

Working in a field dedicated to helping others can cause mental or physical exhaustion. Some people depend on nonprofits for their survival, and that pressure can affect employees. The need to “wear many hats” at an organization can lead to feelings of burn-out as well. The focus on fundraising can also be stressful, as NPOs rely on the generosity and donations from corporations and the public to accomplish their work. Finally, the pay at NPOs is generally lower than what you would make in similar roles at for-profit organizations.

What degrees are best for nonprofit work?+

Overall, just about every type of degree can be useful in the NPO industry. Some degrees are more marketable than others, though — selecting a major such as nonprofit management or social work is the most typical first step in this career path. However, you can also find a place for yourself in this field by obtaining a degree in business, education, computer science, and many other areas of expertise.

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Author

Carolyn Kleiman

Career Coach, Professional Resume Writer

For the last 20 years, Carolyn Kleiman has helped individuals identify and achieve their career goals. Carolyn has held positions in recruiting and training and has helped countless numbers of job seekers craft high-quality resumes and cover letters, prepare for interviews, and eventually land their dream jobs! Carolyn is a Nationally Certified Counselor and a Certified Professional Resume Writer and is a member of the National Career Development Association and Professional Association of Resume Writers & Career Coaches.