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Finding the Right Nonprofit Employer or Volunteer Opportunity

Whether it’s as an employee or a volunteer, working for a nonprofit can be rewarding in many ways. But how do you sift through the thousands of nonprofits that cover hundreds of cause areas to find the right fit for you? Though there are many search engines and employment websites out there, GuideStar Nonprofit Profiles are a great way to get to know the organizations you’re thinking of working with.

Top of GuideStar organization search with Arts, Culture, and Humanities cause area selectedPick a Cause

From breast cancer to fostering blind cats, we all have a cause that is dear to us. When you’re looking for a job or a volunteer opportunity with a nonprofit, it’s important that the organization speaks to you.

Maybe you already have a nonprofit in mind. If you don’t, NTEE codes are a great way to begin your search. NTEE codes, or National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities codes, are used by the IRS and other associations to classify nonprofit organizations as well as grants. There are 26 major NTEE codes, starting with A (arts, culture, and humanities) and ending with Z (unknown). GuideStar’s free nonprofit search lets you refine your search results by NTEE code, and then by subcause.  You can also narrow down your options by city and state. Once you have identified a few nonprofits that you are interested in, it is time to look at their Nonprofit Profiles. 

Do Some Research

Exploring an organization’s Nonprofit Profile can tell you a lot, if you know where to look.

Seal or No Seal: If a nonprofit has a Seal of Transparency, it means it has demonstrated its commitment to transparency by providing key information to its profile. The Seals build on each other and go from Bronze all the way to Platinum. A nonprofit earns the Bronze Seal by providing basic information―mission, leadership team and board names, basic program information, etc. Once an organization has earned a Bronze Seal, it can share financial information to earn Silver; qualitative information about goals, strategies, and vision to earn Gold; and, finally, metrics to show the progress made toward its mission to earn our highest seal, Platinum. Although profiles without a Seal will probably be less informative than those with one, it’s important to remember that a Seal of Transparency is not a nonprofit rating.

Programs + Results: This section will give you a sense of the organization’s overall goals as well as how it goes about meeting them. This should give you a sense of the type of projects you would be involved in if you were to work there.

Financials: You want to make sure that whatever nonprofit you invest your time in is not only financially sound but will also continue to be in the future. Pay special attention to the net gain/loss as well as the months of cash for the current year in order to get a general sense of how well the organization is doing.

Operations: This section can tell you a lot about the people you may be working with. You can learn about leader’s past experiences and gauge whether you may have things in common. I also like to look at the Organizational Demographics section and make sure that the organization I am interested in is committed to racial and gender diversity.

Not every organization will have every section of its profile completed. But Nonprofit Profiles are rich sources of information on thousands of nonprofits.

Pay It Forward

Once you’ve used the Nonprofit Profiles on GuideStar to find a job or volunteer opportunity, you can use your experience to help your new organization stay updated. Encourage your colleagues—or volunteer to do it yourself!—to claim your nonprofit’s profile and start updating. After all, research shows that as a group, organizations with a Seal receive 53 percent more in contributions than those without Seals.

P.S. Philanthropy News Digest Jobs section is a great place to find nonprofit employment postings.

Erica RobertsErica Roberts is a communications coordinator for Candid. She is a recent graduate from UCLA, where she studied economics and gender studies.

Topics: Nonprofit Employment Volunteering