This is the first guest post of my advice series featuring insights from young nonprofit professionals.   Check out the introduction and be sure to subscribe to my blog via email so you never miss a post.

By Guest blogger Nathan Hand

Pomp and circumstance turns into complete anxiety overnight. College is officially behind you and you’ll move to Antarctica before you’ll move back in with your parents. If you’re serious about a career in the nonprofit world, you’ve likely had experience interning or volunteering for an organization – let’s dig in and find which ones are going to get you that job and how best to package it for resume readers!

Step 1

Create a list of volunteering/internship activity you’ve done & super-short descriptions. Your list might look like this.

Walked dogs for Humane Society – Once/week for 6 weeks.
Interned with Oxfam in Bolivia
Tutored local homeless kids every Tuesday for 4 years
Helped old lady cross the street…twice
Picked up trash with my sorority – once for 30 minutes
Team captain for student service trip for tornado relief in Joplin, MO
Student trustee/board member of my University

Step 2

Identify the ‘serious’ experiences that show strong commitment and/or intense learning experience in your area of interest. The rest are important but can be lumped into a ‘volunteering’ section instead of being flushed out like a true ‘position’. In this case, Oxfam, Service team leader, tutoring and student trustee are much better to focus on than the old lady, trash collecting & dog walking. If your list is longer, narrow in on those that demonstrate skills needed for the position or show that you have experience in the issue area. (i.e. If you’re applying to FEMA – focus on the Joplin trip, you might focus on the tutoring if applying for Teach for America, etc.)

Step 3

Write a fuller description of your duties and impact. Quantify it as much as possible and write to ‘wow’ them (without lying).


Student Service Team Captain: Joplin, MO, 2011

Led a one-week intensive service trip experience from concept to fulfillment for 27 University of Houston students and two faculty. Raised $20,000 in cash support and $10,000 in donated supplies. Supervised five-student executive team including chairmen of transportation, construction, health safety, budget and reflection. Project featured in local and university media.

From this simple paragraph, a potential employee can see that you are organized under a tight time-frame, responsive to humanitarian crisis, effective at raising resources and mobilizing people to use them effectively, a strong leader and willing to take risks for the greater good. MUCH better than simply saying “Service trip team leader” in a long list of volunteer activities.

Step 4

After wordsmithing your ‘wow’ descriptions, pick your top 3 and update your LinkedIn profile. Then piece together the right experiences for each job you apply for. There’s no one perfect resume, but every application should include a resume that’s taylor-made for the position you’re applying for!

Step 5

Pack the car, hug mom & dad and hit the road to bask in the glory of your new-found employment!

Nathan Hand has over ten years of nonprofit and fundraising experience at the local, national and international levels. By day, he’s the Vice President of Development at School on Wheels, an organization fighting childhood homelessness in Indianapolis. On the nights and weekends he tweets (@nathan_hand) and writes about nonprofits, fundraising and marketing on his blog.