The power to do good and make a living wage makes fundraising jobs attractive to those that want to get into the nonprofit game. Even for entry level development positions, however, the best nonprofits seem to want people with college degrees or higher, five years of experience, and connections to funding sources within the community. It also seems that everyone working at those organizations is way overqualified if anything, and your resume does not even meet the minimum requisites.
How do you get those jobs then? The answer is you don’t get them; you work up to them. Here are some tips to sneak into the position you really want by selecting a lower end job that helps you build your resume and poises you at the back door.
Nonprofits hire for specific jobs, but employees, due to understaffing and a general lack of resources, often have the flexibility to work in other areas of the organization. So, if you are interested in being a grant writer, but have only written two grants in your life, consider taking the low wage administrative support job the local animal shelter has to offer.
When your Executive Director is about to miss a deadline for a large grant opportunity your organization needs, say that you will take a stab at drafting it. You will soon be known as a go to development specialist! If they don’t give you the raise and title you want after a bit of time, you can always put the experience on your resume and try for a better position in a partner organization you admire.
Even if you loathe math, take an entry level accounting or book keeping position at a nonprofit you love and get involved with budgets. The best fundraisers understand budgets, and you will never get your hands dirty in drafting and updating budgets and eventually making projections if you don’t jump into the numbers. You could eventually work up to writing development plans and strategic plans for your organization this way, critical skills for Development Directors and Executive Directors alike.
Nonprofits are hiring more and more temporary workers, as the cost of benefits for a salaried employee can run up to 25%, and they do not want to commit to long term salary relationships. Even if you really need a salary, you can find yourself working full time in no time if you go temporary! To get these jobs, try one of three strategies:
- Get on staff at a professional employment agency. “Temp” agencies or professional fundraising consulting services offering a la carte services for nonprofits that cannot afford development staff are being called on to provide higher end professionals or services more and more for nonprofits. You can probably just submit your resume, interview with a placement agent, and then be on file for when they call you!
- Be a contractor. Start your own business by creating a profile on a number of different contractor sites on the web. More than 2 million businesses search for help on Elance, and you can set up a profile in only a couple of hours.
- Search online via Indeed, Idealist, or other popular job search engines specifically for nonprofit posts for temporary or seasonal jobs.
Nonprofits often get grants to pay for paid interns to help with program work. This is a great option if you are interested in learning more about a certain type of work, are fresh out of college, or are in college and need a summer job. More than 30,000 look to InternMatch to fill internships.
Be a board member
If you have something to offer, even if it is just time, offer to be a board member for a fledgling nonprofit you like in your neighborhood. It will give you the opportunity to represent an organization you care about and learn about some of the inside details of working with executive staff. You will build your network as well, meeting other nonprofit leaders and being offered the opportunity to attend nonprofit events in your area.
If you are having a terrible time finding a job, and really need to build your resume and/or network, the best option is to volunteer. Do whatever whenever for the nonprofits you love to build your skills and make friends with their staff. Eventually you will be qualified to work for them and attractive because of your dedication and service!
Sometimes the best way to get what you want is to forget your ego and shoot for an entry level position.