Nonprofit cover letter advice from Harvard Business Review

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Plan on working on your cover letter this weekend? While there are plenty of resources out there—including ours!—Amy Gallo of Harvard Business Review recently compiled a list of tips for a great cover letters based on interviews with hiring managers and case studies. Both case studies are of nonprofits and include helpful advice for people looking to land a job in the sector. In one case study, a potential candidate wanted to work for the International Rescue Committee and applied for multiple positions. Here’s what she did to stand out:

Sarah Vania, the organization’s regional HR director, says that Emily’s letters caught her attention, especially because they included several video links that showed the results of Emily’s advocacy and fundraising work at other organizations. Emily explains, “I had prior experience advocating for former child soldiers, human trafficking survivors, vulnerable women, and displaced persons. It’s one thing to make statements in a cover letter, like ‘I can make a pitch, I am a creative person, I am thoughtful,’ but showing these qualities seemed like a better way of convincing the recruiter that the statements were true.”

Read the rest of case study and Amy’s tips on Harvard Business Review.

Amy’s advice and the insights from hiring managers confirm what we know about nonprofit hiring managers from our recent annual survey: genuine interest in the mission and hands-on experience (whether it be through a job, internship, or volunteer opportunity) are key to making a powerful first impression.

Come across any other helpful cover letter tips? Share them in the comments.

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About Author

Former Editor and Creator of Idealist Careers, a publication of Idealist.org. Follow me on Twitter @ajlovesya.

6 Comments

  1. Dr. Holly Sawyer, Ph.D EL on

    This article is in my top 3 as some of the greatest career advice Idealist sent me. Keep up the great work and relevant yet useful articles coming.

  2. That letter to Sarah Vania, the Regional HR director of International Rescue from Emily who was looking to get hired for a position in this non-profit outfit was a stunner! She didn’t talk about what she could do. She showed them. Her cover letter ( with video links) did it all. Way to go, Emily!

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