According to the Independent Sector
, there are nearly 1.6 million nonprofit organizations registered in the United States. They employ 10% of working Americans and comprise the third-largest workforce in the nation.
Having partnered with many nonprofit clients seeking facilities professionals, Helbling search consultants Jim Lord (Executive Director – Northeast)
and Lee Grandovic (Regional Manager – New York City)
offer this advice to those who want to capture the attention of a nonprofit hiring manager.
1. Prepare a response to “why.”
Most hiring managers will want to know why you are interested in making a career change and why you want to work for a nonprofit. Take some time to think about your personal reasons for pursuing this opportunity. Whether it is the mission of the organization that is the driving factor, or the culture that is the draw, be honest with your answer. One Helbling candidate closed his successful business to take on the lead facilities role at a large regional nonprofit. “He recognized the financial stability of the organization and that nonprofits are often more recession-proof than other types of businesses,” said Grandovic.
2. Describe a cause you support.
If you are coming from a for-profit, municipal or government organization, highlight in a cover letter a cause you support through financial contributions or volunteer work. Most mission-driven nonprofits are interested in organizations with like missions or other community outreach. A hiring manager will appreciate hearing about why you began supporting the organization and why you have continued as it provides some insight into the donor or volunteer perspective.
If you are coming from another nonprofit organization where its mission was a motivator, highlight in a cover letter what the work has meant to you. A top Helbling candidate was being considered for a role in an organization that serves women who suffered from domestic violence. Said Lord, who placed the candidate, “He was attractive to the organization because it was apparent that he understood the culture of serving and wanted to continue to do so.”
3. Demonstrate budgeting skills.
Nonprofits, even those with staggering operating budgets, are under scrutiny to spend wisely and stretch funds. Experience in budget planning and management will be noticed. Did you implement a work order system to assign maintenance tasks to the most qualified individuals for maximum efficiency? Did you find a scheduling software that decreased redundant spending by accounting for volunteer hours? Be sure to quantify the results of any examples you share.
4. State your stakeholders.
Nonprofits typically have many internal and external audiences to serve. These can include executives, founders, a board of directors, employees, volunteers, donors, program recipients, the media, and the general public. If you have held a role at a similar organization or held a role where you had to serve many publics, be sure to note that information on your resume. Maybe you have spoken to a local reporter about a pending capital project or presented to the board of directors. Maybe you coordinate maintenance volunteers. Any experience collaborating with a variety of audiences is good experience.
5. Translate your experience.
According to Lord, “There are preconceptions that facilities operate so differently in a nonprofit. The truth is that management skills are very transferrable.” Coming from an outside organization, whether that be non- or for-profit, allows candidates an opportunity to offer new ideas about how to approach common challenges. Instead of focusing solely on the culture of the organization, focus on the problem-solving skills you have acquired and how that could benefit the organization. Extending beyond the day-to-day operations of a facility, new leaders can weigh in on asset acquisition, succession planning and many other top-tier organizational issues.
If you are pursuing a new role in the nonprofit sector, or are a nonprofit organization looking for candidates, please contact us
to speak with a Helbling search consultant.