Have a Way with Words? There’s a Place for You in the Nonprofit Sector
Are you the one your friends and colleagues turn to when they want to make sure an email is perfect? A presentation will captivate the audience? A report will wow the boss?
If so, social impact organizations are looking for you.
There are a million organizations in the world working on a million different problems—but they all have something in common. They all need writers capable of communicating their achievements, goals, and needs (usually funding!) to the communities they serve.
“But isn’t it hard to break into the nonprofit world?” you may be asking. Not if you know where the doors are. Regardless of your level of experience or current position, there’s a way to make the shift toward writing for a social impact organization.
If you’re working in journalism, corporate communications, or advertising, you already have a skill set that is highly sought after by nonprofit organizations. Do you work in advertising? You’re probably a great fit for development or PR jobs. Journalists make amazing advocacy bloggers, and corporate communications folks can easily move into either internal or external nonprofit communications roles.
When applying for jobs, make sure you use your cover letter to draw the connection between existing experience and the requirements of the position you’re applying for. Writing about the economy for a local paper may not immediately seem like it qualifies you to write about LGBT rights, but a journalist’s skills—the ability to connect with people, to understand and synthesize complex information, to meet tight deadlines—are all important in a social impact setting. It’s important for you to connect those dots so the hiring manager doesn’t have to.
No professional writing experience yet? Don’t be discouraged. Writers who are at the beginning of their careers can often work their way into paying social impact writing positions by blogging or volunteering part time. Some organizations even offer writing fellowships or internships.
If you’re looking to build you skills for a nonprofit communications role, check out our post on how to build experience and land the job.
One key to landing writing positions is to treat your cover letter as a work sample—because that’s how the hiring manager or volunteer coordinator will see it. Let your style shine through, but keep it professional and appropriate. You want to show that you can write in a voice appropriate for the organization you’d like to work for.
And as long as you’re transparent about whether something was paid or unpaid, you should also feel comfortable listing any unpaid work that you’re proud of. Maybe you drafted flyers advertising a local demonstration or created the copy for an advocacy Facebook page. No project is too small if it highlights your skills and commitment. Most important, don’t forget to proofread; polish your application as carefully as you would an article going off to the printer.
A lot of people who already work at nonprofits in other capacities would prefer to be writing. If you fit into this category, consider seeking out opportunities within your organization to help with writing projects.
If your organization has a communications director or a managing editor, start with them. Let them know that you’re interested in contributing, and offer some samples of your relevant work. Make sure to confirm you’ll be able to include results and deliverables in your portfolio before agreeing to create anything on an unpaid basis.
With each project, you’ll increase confidence and continue to grow a portfolio that could be the key to landing that writing job you’ve always dreamed of.
Are you thinking of making the switch to social-impact writing? Already in the process of finding a full- or part-time position? We’d love to hear how you’re working toward your goal in the comments below.
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