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Applying for a Job in the Nonprofit Sector? Here’s My Advice Before You Do

With the American economy continuing to improve, many people are considering a job change. The nonprofit sector is experiencing increased vacancies, especially in top leadership roles. Some are retiring while others are jumping ship to work for another organization.

Not all who are applying for nonprofit jobs come from within the industry. Some are migrating from for-profit to nonprofit jobs.

I am writing this blog to provide advice on the importance of conducting research before applying for an executive director position.

Research the Organization First

1. Visit the nonprofit organization’s website.

  • Evaluate the organization’s mission, programs and services. Are the programs and services aligned with the mission? Does the nonprofit have the capacity, including staff and resources, to successfully deliver their programs and services?

  • Has the organization evaluated outcomes of their programs and services through a formal, independent evaluation? Was the evaluation conducted within the last 3 - 5 years?

  • Review their financial statements. Does the organization post their most recent IRS 990 reporting form, audited financial statements and annual report on their website? Organizational transparency and easy access to these documents is important! If this information is not readily available on the organization’s website, see #2 below.

  • Does the organization have a strategic plan and development (fundraising) plan? This will show you where the organization is heading and if they have the resources to get there.

2. You can search for the organization’s IRS 990 reporting form on the Foundation Center website where here you will find the following information that will be valuable in your job search:

  • The nonprofits financial situation. Are they fiscally sound? Are they deficit spending?

  • Executive Director salary information. Most IRS 990 reporting forms include the salary of the current or previous executive director. Can they afford to pay you the salary that you are expecting?

  • Listing of the members of the Board of Directors. Do you know someone who serves on the Board of Directors? If so, reach out to them to discuss the organization. Ask what they believe are the organization’s strengths and weaknesses. Ask why the current executive director is leaving.

This is my advice to you if you are seeking and applying for a job at a nonprofit.

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