Tips for researching and applying to nonprofit jobs
I have a guest post up today at Entry Level Living on understanding and negotiating your non-profit salary. It’s targeted towards people who already have a nonprofit job and are looking to increase their piece of the pie. The last piece of advice from the article is stay mobile. If you’re looking for a new nonprofit job, here are some tips:
If you didn’t do due diligence the first time, you should definitely fully research the place you’re interested in. Once again, knowing how to read a Form 990 is immensely valuable (and you can search them for free here and here—though the latter requires free registration).
- Looking at the upper-level salaries, what’s the maximum you could ever make?
- Did the organization take a loss last year? Looking at a couple years, are they growing or contracting?
- How is the organization making their money? That’s what they really care about—not necessarily their published priorities.
- Do they pay a lot of money to contractors? What internal competencies is the organization lacking?
- Look at their asset statement. Does the organization have the equipment you need to do the work efficiently (e.g. modern computers)?
Any number of these could generate questions to ask during the interview, or grist for the question “How did you prepare for this interview?”
Some Non-990 advice:
Know yourself. Make an honest assessment of what kind of management you need to flourish, and be ready to answer the question “What kind of supervision do you work best under?” Do you want to figure things out for yourself or be told how to do it? Do you do better with routine or having different activities every day? Even if this is your first job, try to think of a teacher or professor that worked with you in a way you liked.
Spend time on your cover letter. For-profit hirers flip to the resume to look for experience; nonprofit hirers read the cover letter with an eye for heart. Make it a passionate statement for why you do what you want to do. It’s not the body of the letter that counts, it’s the soul.
Salary ranges are not hiring ranges The published upper limit is most likely the maximum you will ever make in that position. Don’t expect to successfully negotiate for the higher amount.
What did you used to make. If you’re asked about your salary expectations (and you really shouldn’t be if it’s an entry level job—both of you should know you’ll be making next to nothing), instead talk about your salary history. What have you earned in the past (and what benefits have you received)? Be clear that your aware you may be taking a pay cut, but make up for it by stressing your alignment with their mission and services.
Use the hiring process as a guide. I know many people who say “I should have known when they hired me…” If the job description is poorly written, you have trouble getting direct answers to questions, or you feel parts of the hiring process take place in bad faith, take that as a warning of what it’s like to work there. Do they model the type of behavior you expect and respect?
And most importantly, stay positive and open minded. Right now it’s tough for everyone to find a job. Don’t get caught on a narrow path. A nonprofit career is not the only way to do good.