Writing Nonprofit Resume

5 Tips For Writing A Nonprofit Resume


In the nonprofit world, your resume is what can make the difference between getting an interview and getting thrown into file 13. Your resume must concisely communicate your training, experience, and your education in a way that highlights your strengths and generates increased interest from the employer.

5 Tips For Writing A Nonprofit Resume

Here are five tips for writing a nonprofit resume that can help you get hired:

1. Research The Job And Organization

Don’t submit a generic resume and cover letter — they will get passed over extremely quickly. Instead, be prepared to know as much as possible about the organization before you apply. This involves thinking about their mission, the types of positions at the nonprofit, and the types of projects they’re working on.

What skills would fit in the company well? What skills do you have (particularly if you’re not coming from a nonprofit background) that will translate directly into this organization? Where do you see potential gaps that you could help to fill? The more you know about the group, the more prepared you’ll be to connect their vision with your own.

2. Don’t Get Hung Up On Details

One of the greatest downfalls of many resume writers is that they spend far too much time considering formatting and font and not enough time really evaluating the text content inside the resume. Of course, an employer wants to be able to read through a clean document- but the content within the sections has to wow them, too.

Your resume may need to go through two or three revisions before you’re comfortable sending it out, and that shows that you’ve spent the time targeting this particular position and organization. Don’t lose sight of the fact that the employer will want to dig down into what sets you apart. Make sure you’ve spent enough time summarizing that information efficiently.

3. Clearly Articulate Past Experience

Think about what you did in your previous employment or educational history. Are the terms on your resume adequately describing your job? Are the words popping off of the page to spark increased interest?

To practice this, read your resume sections out loud. Every section listed underneath an employer’s name should highlight specific tasks (in the past tense for those prior employers) and targeted achievements. For example, don’t write that you “brought on more customers”. Reword this by considering ideas like “Fostered new client relationships” or “Improved new business revenue by 25%”. These statements reference the task itself but also the personal achievements you brought to that task. The personal touch is important.

4. Highlight Volunteer Involvement

Although those hiring for the private sector might not be interested in volunteer work, the nonprofit world wants to see how you connect to your community. Most people working for nonprofits are highly committed to the cause. For example, listing volunteer work and how you are giving of your time are ways to stand out from the crowd. It’s appropriate to mention achievements as well as time commitments (in length or in volume). Any past experience in fields or causes related to the nonprofit you’re applying for should be listed first.

5. Don’t Forget The Skills Section

Past experience or lack of education can be overlooked if you can demonstrate mastery of the skills needed to thrive in a nonprofit. For this reason, include a “skills” section on your resume with keywords that link directly to the job itself. Be prepared to expound on these skills during a telephone or in-person interview.

Obtaining employment in the public sector can lead to fulfilling and successful careers doing important work. If you want to get your foot in the door, make sure that your resume is doing the talking for you and communicating your best assets from the get go. Spend the extra time fine-tuning your resume and you will reap the benefits in interviews and offers.

This article was written by Social Media Outreach Coordinator Logan Harper on behalf of CAREEREALISM-Approved Partner, 2U — an education technology company that partners with institutions of higher education such as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill which provides an online public administration degree.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock


Founded in 2008, 2U partners with preeminent institutions of higher education to deliver rigorous, selective degree programs online to students globally.


  1. caRVE OUT YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS. dON’T JUST LIST YOUR DAILY RESPONSIBILITES BUT WHAT YOU DID THAT MADE A DIFFERENCE IN YOUR ORGANIZATION….service improvement, program development, bringing in new revenues, exceeding performance standards. I like to create a resume section titled “selected acomplishments” between summary and experience/education chronology sections, usually 3-4 high water mark statements 2-3 lines each and double spaced in between

  2. A great web site. Very useful for people from all walks of life. Sure if someone follows this website need not to worry about employment difficulties. You have an answer for everything. Good job. Keep the great work going.

  3. These are great tips! At Idealist.org, we survey the nonprofits that are part of our community every year to get a sense of what they look for in candidates. They have three main questions: can you do the job (past experiences/accomplishments), will you do the job (passion/commitment), and will you fit in (using the right language).


    With regard to resumes, I would add two more tips:

    1. Try the “can you tell what job I am applying for” test. When sharing your resume with folks, don’t just ask them what they think. Ask them if they know what kind of job you are applying for. This will help ensure that your resume is telling the right story.

    2. Don’t forget your cover letter. Although this post is talking about resumes, if you are a sector switcher, it is equally important to explain why you are switching, how you have been building relationships with the nonprofit sector, and what you bring to the table.

    Hope this helps!

  4. I have lots of non-profit experience. I don’t see anything in this article that makes it unique to non-profits, except maybe the volunteer section.

    Focus on the mission of the organization. See how you fit into that mission. Show how your skills and personal mission fit with the mission of the non-profit.

    Show that you know how to work as a volunteer and with volunteers. Most non-profits thrive on their volunteers. You might want to start as a volunteer. This is a great way to find a job in a non-profit!

  5. Isn’t it a bit dangerous to encourage people to not worry about details with a resume when employers are often finding any small reason to throw yours into the “no” pile?

    I think a better nugget of advice is to start your resume development early so you have plenty of time to pay attention to every little detail. Just my two cents. :)


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