How to turn volunteer work into a paying nonprofit job

Gaining experience and getting work in a nonprofit organization are two separate and equally important things. Moving from volunteer to paid employee is the most likely way to get into a paid nonprofit job. Three reasons for this are:

  • You gain understanding in the way nonprofits work
  • You gain contacts which you can add to your network
  • You gain relevant skills and experiences to get paid work.

How to Move Up

Going from volunteer to paid employee in a nonprofit organization is not as simple as it can sound. Career paths will not be as clear as with private sector jobs, but as with any part of the nonprofit world the path takes planning and a mission to succeed. The following reasons help explain this:

  • The organization is small and will not have many paid positions
  • Turnover is not as high as the private sector
  • The required skill levels between volunteer and paid position are usually farther apart than an entry level and management in the private sector

What does this mean? Simply that you will have to move around different positions and duties to move up from volunteer to paid employee. A few ways to do this are:

  • Take promotions in voluntary roles to show leadership and initiative
  • Take temporary responsibility for projects above your role to show you can handle the added requirements
  • Move through different positions to gain experience in different areas
  • Take any courses or training offered by the organization to add to your certifications

Wanting to work up through the ranks in a nonprofit organization, it helps to gain as much experience as possible; and then show, by achievements and knowledge, that you can handle greater responsibilities.

Moving Into Other Areas

Another way to move from volunteer to paid employee is to move around to other areas of work. Experience as a volunteer will show potential employers positive points:

  • Volunteers show personal initiative
  • Volunteers show a strong desire to work
  • Volunteering shows resourcefulness

While doing work as a volunteer it should be a goal to gain experience in a chosen field. Employers will seek skills and experience most useful to them; and you will be competing alongside others with possibly more experience in the private sector. Much of the experience gained in volunteering can help you move from volunteer to paid employee.

  • The ability to work with deadlines
  • The ability to work under pressure and difficult environments
  • The ability to work within budgets
  • The ability to adapt to changes quickly
  • The ability to do multiple, and varied, tasks

These abilities are always of importance to any employer in either the nonprofit or private sector.

Skill Development Strategy