May 30, 2024

How to Create a Compelling Job Description for Nonprofits

Studies show that candidates spend under a minute from the time they open a job posting to decide whether the opportunity is a good fit for them. With such little room to make an impression, it’s critical that your nonprofit optimizes your job descriptions, so you can engage the top candidates and compete with for-profit businesses for talent. 

Depending on your organization’s size, you’ve likely either outsourced your hiring responsibilities or assigned them to team members from various departments in the past. Regardless of your nonprofit’s situation, it’s always beneficial to train all relevant personnel in best practices for writing clear, concise, and captivating job descriptions. In this guide, we’ll teach you how to leverage your recruitment data and tools to source and hire qualified candidates.

1. Highlight the benefits of working for a nonprofit

One of the biggest hurdles your nonprofit has to overcome during the recruiting process is contending with for-profit organizations for talent. Businesses and corporations usually can afford to offer better benefits and pay than their nonprofit counterparts, giving them a significant strategic edge in the recruiting space.

However, your nonprofit offers unique advantages as well. Be sure to put the following elements front and center in your job description:

  • Sense of purpose. Nonprofit employees devote their lives to helping others, which can promote a sense of fulfillment and positivity in workplace culture.
  • Connection with peers. Many people apply to work at certain nonprofits because they are passionate about the mission, meaning employees are more likely to find like-minded team members to build relationships with.

Innovation and professional development opportunities. Nonprofit employees often need to take on numerous roles or responsibilities to further their mission, which allows them to develop more skills outside of their niche.

In addition to these general benefits, highlight your nonprofit’s unique value proposition. For instance, you might have an above-average paid time off allowance or offer great corporate social responsibility perks. Whatever makes your organization stand out from the crowd, flaunt it!

2. Illustrate short-term and long-term expectations

Your candidates only want to spend their valuable effort applying to jobs that align with their career aspirations, and your team only wants to spend its time reviewing the best-fit applications. So, clarifying job expectations and your staff’s needs is a win-win for both your team and applicants.

According to Double the Donation, some common day-to-day expectations for various nonprofit roles include:

  • Executive Director: Devising overall nonprofit growth strategy and promoting team cohesion
  • Development Director: Spearheading all fundraising and donor development activities
  • Grant Writers: Researching and applying for relevant grant opportunities
  • Volunteer Director: Scheduling, training, and stewarding volunteers
  • Marketing Coordinator: Planning and producing marketing collateral
  • Event Planner: Working with the volunteer manager, development director, and marketing director to organize cohesive events

Long-term expectations might be more difficult to list in your job descriptions. To communicate accurate long-term expectations for each role, consider how you encourage employees in that role to grow over time. For instance, you might share that a common stepping stone for marketing coordinators at your nonprofit is to network at a minimum of ten conferences before getting promoted to director. 

3. Emphasize soft skills

While skills like using your CRM for data-driven recruitment are crucial to your nonprofit’s success, there are other core competencies you should look for in an ideal candidate. Attributes and abilities that contribute to employee success and cohesion with your workplace culture, also known as soft skills, are equally important to emphasize in your nonprofit’s job descriptions. Some of the top soft skills to mention include:

  • Empathy. Whether you’re a food bank or a disaster relief nonprofit, your organization’s work concerns real people and their lives. Understanding how to see issues from an empathetic point of view and appeal to your donors’ emotions can help you craft more effective and resonant calls to action.
  • Persuasion. This is an especially important trait for fundraising roles, like grant writers and development directors, to develop. Creating convincing appeals for support is crucial for you to acquire, retain, and re-engage donors.
  • Communication. Effective communication is the foundation of a healthy and effective workplace. Regardless of their roles, all team members need to be able to communicate effectively with each other and with external stakeholders. 
  • Open-mindedness. Being open to understanding other perspectives and trying new things can promote innovation and employee loyalty over time.
  • Adaptability. Just like businesses, nonprofits aren’t immune to hardships and changing circumstances. The best long-term candidates are those who can demonstrate flexibility in the face of difficult conditions.

These are only a few of the possible soft skills your nonprofit could include in job descriptions. Meet with your existing employees and ask for their input on which skills are the most pertinent to each role’s long- and short-term success. 

4. Integrate existing employee testimonials

Your job description can lay out all of the most pertinent information for your potential applicants, and still not draw in the best talent. With this in mind, Lever’s guide to recruitment marketing suggests applying a tactic you already use for fundraising — leveraging social proof, or the concept of using testimonials to win your candidates’ trust.

The most effective testimonials you should collect and showcase are those from fellow employees. After all, your candidates are more likely to relate with them and want to learn more about their personal experiences working for your nonprofit. Here’s how to start highlighting employee testimonials:

  1. Ask employees for their permission to be featured. Explain exactly what the purpose of the testimonial is and what information you’ll include.
  2. Interview employees about their experience with your nonprofit. You might ask them questions like “How would you rate your experience working here out of five stars?” or “Could you describe your time working here in three words?”
  3. Build the testimonials into your job postings. You could include a section under the requirements and expectations that includes key quotes from your employee testimonials.

You can take your employees’ involvement in the recruitment process even further than elevating your job descriptions. For instance, you can ask employees to be part of the interview process by hosting “day in the life” chats where the candidates get to know an employee on a more casual level. Regardless of the strategies you end up using, employees can enhance your hiring outcomes from top to bottom, as long as you gain their permission and communicate openly with them.

Ultimately, nonprofit recruiting can be quite challenging, even for the most seasoned recruiters. However, by highlighting all of your nonprofit’s unique perks in your job description, you can set your strategies up for success and build the team of your dreams.

Written by

Stephanie Sparks

As Director of Content Marketing & Social at Employ, Stephanie leverages 17 years of marketing and communications experience, and her master’s degree in marketing, communication studies, and advertising, to craft compelling content across the JazzHR, Lever, Jobvite, and NXTThing RPO brands. She writes thought leader for the HR technology and talent acquisition space.


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