Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Nonprofit Cover Letter: Do's and Don'ts


Of course, you should probably use a computer...

I promised in my link-round up yesterday that I would write a post about how to write a nonprofit cover letter; as you will see, I am a man of my word.  If you read the previously mentioned link-round up, you will already know that I provided a link from The Nonprofit Career Coach blog about writing an effective nonprofit cover letter.  The points listed in that article are very important; I especially think it's very useful to tell a story that will stick with the reader's mind. 

The Nonprofit Career Coach goes on to say that this should be a story that shows why you want to be a part of the nonprofit organization's mission.  This is definitely important, and I think when writing this story, you should make sure it helps show the kind of person you are.  One of the main aspects an NPO will consider when hiring is personality: is this going to be a person they can depend on?  This is important for for-profit companies, but it is especially important for non-profit organizations to know.  Given the mission-based nature of these jobs, it's important that your nonprofit cover letter emphasizes that you have core beliefs that correspond to the organization in question. 

This is why it is absolutely imperative to make sure your personality shines through the cover letter.  The story you tell at the beginning helps, yes, but the whole letter must be written in your style.  Avoid cookie-cutter phrases, and be as genuine as possible.  If a recruiter senses you put very little effort into your cover letter, then it is very likely he/she will not put much effort into hiring you.

Of course this means something you probably don't want to hear: don't ever use the same cover letter for multiple nonprofits.  This doesn't necessarily mean you need to start from scratch each time; in fact, it's kind of similar to my point on writing a nonprofit resume.  As with the resume, a non-profit cover lette should be tailored to the individual organization you are applying to.  Again, if 90% of your cover letter is the same to every place you apply to, you are doing something wrong.  You can work from a base cover letter and change the details from there; just don't do a copy/paste job.

At the end of the day, your non profit cover letter should be a document that leaves the recruiter with no doubt about who you are, and that your personality will be the perfect fit for whatever mission they undertake.  If you follow these tips (along with the ones from The Nonprofit Career Coach), you will have a successful cover letter on your hands.

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