How to Create the Perfect Non-Profit Cover Letter

February 26 2019 , 0 Comments

Why do we need to create a cover letter when we apply for a job? Our CV lists all of our skills and experience – and that’s what hiring managers are really after. They want to be sure you’ve got the right expertise and the know-how to thrive in their business. But what about the personal side of the job application? How do you show them you’re really the right person for the job?

A list of proficiencies and accomplishments is useful, but it doesn’t let the organisation know who you really are. At its very core, a cover letter allows you to show the bigger picture. It’s a space for you to let your passion shine through and share the journey that has led you to this particular role. And in the non-profit industry, that’s just as important (if not more important) than the experience itself.

Not sure where to start? Here are four ways to make sure your cover letter shows the best side of you and convinces hiring managers to give you a call.


Research, research, research

First thing’s first: show that you’ve done your homework. Every cover letter you write should be tailored to the organisation you’re applying for. And you don’t want to get caught out in the interview stage by not being able to answer a question as simple as ‘so what do you think of our website?’. Use the cover letter to highlight why the charity speaks to you and how you feel you can contribute to their mission.

Where do they sit in the sector? Who are some of their competitors and what are they doing differently? What sorts of projects or campaigns have really stood out to you? It may seem like you’re stroking their ego, but you’re really showing that you cared enough to get to know them. And by mentioning specific information about their charity in your cover letter, hiring managers will see that you have a genuine interest in their organisation.


Share your connection with their cause

Most people get into the non-profit sector because it speaks to them on a personal level. It’s a common fact that jobs in the third sector don’t always pay as much as the private or public sectors. Hiring managers are often weary of people shifting into non-profit because they may not stick around if they’re unhappy with their salary. That’s why your connection with the mission is so vital to your application. It shows you that the cause is more important to you than money you’ll be making. Passion, especially in the non-profit sector, is equally as important as experience.

Maybe you had a family member who was helped by the organisation. Or maybe you’re an avid animal lover and you want to work for a company that ensures animal welfare. Whatever the reason, let them know! And don’t forget to mention any voluntary experience you’ve had in the past and how it influenced your career progression. It shows hiring managers that you’re genuinely interested in the industry and gives that extra assurance that you’re in this for the long haul.


Keep it short and sweet

Unless you’ve been given a specific word count, it’s always best to keep things brief. Trying to fit everything you want to say into a short space can be a tall task, but brevity and the ability to edit is a skill many organisations (not just non-profits) value. Sure, you want to mention your dedication to the cause, but you don’t need to spend two or three pages proving that it really means something to you.

This is especially important if you’re applying to a small organisation where the hiring manager may also be juggling a few other roles. Channel your inner Hemmingway and remove anything that isn’t essential to what you’re trying to say. And remember, you don’t have to repeat things you’ve already covered in your CV.


Cut out the corporate jargon

Unless you’re applying to a big-name charity with thousands of employees, chances are the office dynamic will be quite informal. Avoid overly-corporate language wherever you can. Hiring managers want to be able to quickly pinpoint your passion and experience without wading through a swamp of complicated words and tedious adverbs. The longer it takes for them to get to your point, the less likely they will be to short list you for an interview.

Your day-to-day interactions in the non-profit sector may often involve working with people from varying levels of socioeconomic backgrounds. By using less formal language in your cover letter, you’re showing that you’re down-to-earth and will interact positively with the people you’re helping.


Ultimately, you’ll want to follow many of the same rules that apply to cover letters across all sectors. Grammar and spelling are important, as is formatting. But the key difference lies in the little details, and once you’ve figured out how to convey the right mix of passion, authenticity and dedication, you’ll be sure to snag the perfect job.

This content was provided by CharityJob, the largest and most specialised job board for the charity and not-for-profit sector in the UK.

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