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The Do's and Don'ts for Completing Nonprofit Applications

Updated: Jan 24

Working with Imagine has afforded me the privilege of reviewing hundreds of thousands of candidate applications submitted to amazing nonprofit organizations. Through our partnerships with social impact organizations, we have the honor of supporting hiring processes, spanning from Entry-level to C-suite positions.

During this journey, I've encountered a spectrum of applications, from those where it's evident the candidate has done their homework, to instances where applicants accidentally submitted a cover letter with another company's name on it (Oops!).

For organizations dedicated to serving marginalized communities, it's crucial that new team members share a genuine belief in the mission and values. This is precisely why many organizations scrutinize the application stage not only for qualifications and experience but also for a true alignment with the mission.

Effectively and clearly communicating this alignment is of paramount importance.

There's a common assumption that the first impression occurs during the initial interview round. However, I wholeheartedly disagree!

While this may not be the sole organization you're considering, it's vital to convey your genuine interest in the specific work they do.

So, when applying to a nonprofit, here are some tips:


Take Some Time To Explore Their Website

Ensure the mission and values resonate within your application, whether in your resume or cover letter, as reviewers will want to gauge your familiarity with their mission.

Answer All The Questions

Not responding to all queries suggests a lack of interest in investing time in your responses. Avoid using responses like "See Resume" or "To Be Discussed"; they do not suffice.

Ensure Your Resume Is Clear

Reviewers often skim applications (being transparent here). Submitting clear, concise layouts and removing unnecessary details can assist reviewers in identifying their ideal candidate. Use the cover letter for more in-depth information.

"This is why many organizations use the application stage to see if there is an alignment not just on qualifications and experience but actually interests of the work."


Assume that AI or a computer is conducting the review

Most nonprofits have internal teams or hire external support to meticulously assess EACH AND EVERY application (sometimes just one person reviewing 300+!). The key is not to outsmart the system but to impress the person on the other side. Taking the time to tailor your application to the role will pay off in the long run.

Forget to Follow Up

Remember, we're all human. There's nothing wrong with ensuring that your candidacy is still under consideration. Just as you showed interest in the organization, the organization should show interest in you. Reach out for updates on the hiring process. Extend grace if you don't receive an immediate response.

Take it personally if you don't progress despite your hard work

You might have finally found the right job, submitted an application, and not advanced to the next stage or not been selected. This can be mentally taxing. We, as strangers on the internet, are here to cheer you on! We always encourage self-care throughout your job search journey.

We want to see you win, because if you win those who you are impacted by your work will also win. That does mean that taking care of yourself comes first.

For further tips on self-care during your job search, you can check out this article: (

What are your own personal Do's and Don'ts when it comes to your job search? Leave a comment below to share!


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