Pump Up Your Resume with Charity

December 01 2011

A good way to pump up your resume and gain valuable experience is to get involved in the community. Charities are, often times, short staffed and always on the lookout for good volunteers, board members, and consultants. The non-profit world is very competitive, so it is imperative to keep costs low to attract donors, which is their lifeline. This is the reason most non-profits rely on “free” help to get the job done.

Non-profits are much more complicated than they look from the outside, which is a positive for everyone who gets involved; you can be sure that your small contribution goes a long way. Here are a few ways you can get involved that will help you gain experience that is resume-worthy.

Board of Directors: In order to be a 501(c)(3), all charities must have a Board of Directors calling the shots (http://www.stayinglegalmi.org/not_all_nonprofits_are_charities.html). Many larger organizations only have one national governing Board, then form smaller local Boards that can help make local decisions. The biggest advantage to being part of a Board of Directors is the connections you make with other Board members. Typically, Boards are made up of the who’s who of your local area. Executives tend to do business with other executives with like-minded community interests. If you are actively searching for a new job, what better way to get in the door than to sit shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the area’s movers and shakers. Being asked to sit on a Board of Directors is not the easiest thing. You need to prove your worth, hold a high-level title, or know someone already involved. Many non-profits also have financial expectations to be part of their Board of Directors. Contact the charity’s Executive Director to find out what they look for in new Board members. If their Board is full, ask about joining another committee to get your foot in the door.

Event Planning: There is a reason Donald Trump chooses planning a charity event as the final test on The Apprentice each season- it’s a marketable skill. If you can successfully plan a charity event, you prove your ability to organize, manage, market, promote, recruit, inspire… everything an employer looks for (http://blog.cvent.com/blog/meetings-and-events-3/its-not-marlee-or-john). Charities are constantly planning events. Start off small and volunteer for an event. For instance, if you volunteer for a charity walk, you may be assigned to help register walkers, set-up water stations, hand out timers, record winner data, pass out food, organize the awards ceremony, etc. Try to get experience in different areas. Once you have found an event you enjoy doing (and there are MANY different events: galas, walks, golf tournaments, screenings, etc.), find an organization that will allow you to do an event on their behalf. There are usually strict rules to “third party” events, so find out your particular charity’s rules. Then work your magic and gain valuable experience running your own event.

Project Management: If you are looking for specific experience, contact the Executive Director of your chosen charity and ask how you might be able to help. For example, if you want to gain publicity experience, call a non-profit and find out if they have any upcoming fundraisers or big announcements that they need help publicizing. Most local non-profit offices do not have the luxury of a Communications Manager on-site and would welcome your help. Many non-profits especially need help with graphic design, marketing, writing, development, public relations, volunteer recruitment, and promotion.  Manage a specific aspect of one of their projects and use it as a learning experience to strengthen your skill set and add to your resume.

Get Published: Many employers now ask for writing samples to prove your abilities. If your current job does not offer enough chances to get published, look for a charity that needs help. Most non-profits rely on grants for financial support, yet have few staff with the time to focus on writing grants. Writing a grant is very time consuming, but a unique skill that many do not get the opportunity to do (http://www.wikihow.com/Write-a-Grant-Proposal). Charities often need help writing press releases and press packets for upcoming events or announcements. There are event program books, websites, newsletters, and many other publications charities produce. Ask the charity to give you samples of your work to use in your portfolio.

In addition to volunteering for charities, you may want to consider working for one. Especially for recent graduates, charities offer the opportunity to get a myriad of experience. With fewer staff, you will have more responsibilities and opportunities to build your resume. Whether you volunteer or work for a charity, you can pump up your resume while doing something positive for your community. It’s a win-win!

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