How to Write a Nonprofit Cover Letter (With Template and Example)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated November 7, 2022 | Published March 12, 2020

Updated November 7, 2022

Published March 12, 2020

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Your cover letter is one of the most important components of any job application because it introduces you to the hiring manager, so it needs to give a great first impression. Applying to a nonprofit job requires the same cover letter quality as applying to a traditional company, but there are a few subtle differences.

In this article, we discuss nonprofit organizations and how to construct an effective cover letter for a nonprofit job application.

What is a nonprofit?

A nonprofit, sometimes known as a not-for-profit or non-business entity, is an organization that uses its net revenue to further specific social causes or advocate for religious, scientific, research or educational viewpoints. Nonprofits do not distribute any income to shareholders, leaders or organization members, and they do not pay income tax on the money they receive, making them tax-exempt or charitable.

Nonprofits focus their efforts on openness, honesty and accountability. They rely on donations, founders and volunteers from the public community to help them raise enough money to continue advocating for their cause. They focus strongly on their mission and partake in activities to help garner the public's interest in the cause and build confidence in the organization.

Read more: What Is a Nonprofit Organization?

How to write a cover letter for a nonprofit

Follow these steps to construct a well-written cover letter for a nonprofit job application:

  1. State the position you're applying for and how you found out about it.

  2. Show your familiarity with the organization's work.

  3. Express your interest in the nonprofit's cause or a specific project.

  4. Discuss your skills and experience related to the nonprofit's work.

  5. Mention your personal connections to the nonprofit's type of work.

  6. Close with a follow-up or call to action.

1. State the position you're applying for and how you found out about it

In the first sentence of your cover letter, mention the specific position you're applying for and identify how you found out about it. If you discovered the open position through a personal connection who works with the organization, make sure to let them know. Nonprofits appreciate referred candidates just as much as regular for-profit businesses.

2. Show your familiarity with the organization's work

In the second sentence, demonstrate your knowledge of what the organization does. Nonprofits desire employees who are familiar with their history and understand the type of work they do. Mention a specific project the nonprofit operates that you follow, or briefly overview their mission and how it impresses you.

3. Express your interest in the nonprofit's cause or a specific project

In the first paragraph, after displaying your knowledge of the organization itself, express your interest in a specific project or cause the nonprofit is involved with, and show your commitment to their mission. You want them to recognize your desire to work with them more than any other nonprofit.

Explain why their values and mission are important to you, and mention what impresses you most about their activities. The more you can express your passion and excitement about the job and the organization, the more likely the hiring manager will want to meet with you.

Related: Everything You Should Know About Working for a Nonprofit

4. Discuss your skills and experience related to the nonprofit's work

In the second paragraph of your cover letter, talk about your skills and experience related to the position. The goal is to make the hiring manager see you as the best candidate for the job. One way to do this is to read the job description carefully and pull out specific characteristics and skills you possess that the employer is looking for in a candidate.

If you have worked in the same field the nonprofit advocates for, explain how your experience in the field helped shape you as a professional, and be sure to mention any related volunteer experience. Also, include evidence of past achievements showing you perform your job well, and validate these with metrics when applicable.

Related: Guide to Listing Volunteer Work on a Resume (With Example)

5. Mention your personal connections to the nonprofit's type of work

Use the third paragraph to explore your personal connection with the nonprofit's work more thoroughly. Share how a similar organization helped you, a friend or your community, or tell a story to explain why the organization's cause means a lot to you.

Nonprofit members and employees are usually closely tied with the cause and extremely passionate about the organization's ability to benefit that cause, so their new members need to have the same commitment. Toward the end of the paragraph, mention how you can help them by joining their team.

6. Close with a follow-up or call to action

In a short closing paragraph, mention follow-up actions you plan to take, such as attending an upcoming fundraising event. This shows that you pay attention to the organization's activities and have a sincere interest in them. Closeout with a call to action asking for a phone call or in-person meeting to discuss the job and how you can help them further their cause.

Nonprofit cover letter template

Use this template as a guide to help you write a cover letter for your next nonprofit job application:

[Your name]
[Your phone number]
[Your email address]
[Optional: Your address]

[Date]

[Hiring manager's name]
[Hiring manager's job title]
[Company name]
[Company address]

Dear Mr./Ms. [Hiring manager's last name],

[The opening paragraph for a nonprofit is your opportunity to introduce yourself, indicate which position you're applying to and mention how you learned about it. This paragraph could be considered the most important in a cover letter because it needs to captivate the hiring manager enough to make them want to keep reading, so make sure to express your knowledge of the nonprofit's mission and accomplishments. Then, explain in more detail why that specific nonprofit means something to you and how their mission excites you. Be passionate, expressive and genuine in your writing.]

[In the second paragraph, discuss your professional experience, volunteer work and accomplishments related to the organization's projects and cause. Indicate how these experiences have shaped your professional profile and increased your passion for that work.]

[The third paragraph serves as extra space to tell more of your personal story and explain how the nonprofit connects to you and your life. This is a bit different than cover letters for normal for-profit jobs, where you might leave out this section.]

[In the closing paragraph, include your follow-up plans and a call to action.]

[Closing statement],

[Signature]

Download Cover Letter Template
To upload the template into Google Docs, go to File > Open > and select the correct downloaded file.

Nonprofit cover letter example

Refer to this nonprofit cover letter example when writing your own:

Kendra Lee
608-622-2222
kendralee@email.com
919 Atwood Ave.
Madison, WI 53716

March 3, 2020

Jessica Mathers
Hiring Manager
Healthy Mind Organization
9600 Wayward Lane
Suite 402
San Francisco, CA 94016

Dear Ms. Mathers,

Nick Johnson suggested that I apply for the position of communications manager with Healthy Mind Organization because he is familiar with my proven record of successful social media management, as well as my deeply personal connection with your mission to increase mental health awareness and provide support to those battling mental health issues. The projects about your Mind Body Soul initiative are especially interesting to me. I would be eager to work on initiatives similar to this. This specific project was immediately exciting to me because of the opportunity to support Healthy Mind's mission to help young girls empower themselves and build a strong foundation of self-love. I am equally impressed by your focus on investing in initiatives that promote body acceptance and nutritional counseling.

My five years of experience at Avatar Media Inc. and my academic background in communications and marketing make me well equipped to start immediately working on a project to help expand your current outreach and connections. My nonprofit experience includes fundraising for a local women's group promoting healthy lifestyles to young girls. I'm fully versed in all aspects of print and online marketing, and I have experience in public relations and branding. I also have strong organizational, leadership, interpersonal and critical-thinking skills, all of which I know will assist me in the role of communications manager.

Over the past couple of years, I have been in close contact with several women who have benefited from Healthy Mind's services. After growing up seeing the effects of mental health issues firsthand, particularly in young women, I have gained a unique and personal understanding of how important your work is for all women. The opportunity to work in the Healthy Mind Organization would be an incredible way to fulfill what I believe to be my life's purpose.

I appreciate the chance to apply for the communications manager position and would love to talk with you more. Can we schedule a call or a meeting to discuss this opportunity further?

Sincerely,

Kendra Lee

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