How to snare a job in the non-profit world

December 9, 2009 at 2:43 pm Leave a comment

Journalists looking at continued layoffs in our field and the ever-rising numbers of talented folks competing for a shrinking number of good media jobs are increasingly asking: Is it time to get out and do something else? One place some are starting to look is to the non-profit sector, a growing field with variety of job types in the D.C. area.

Yet the next obvious question is: How does a journalist translate their writing, communications and research experience into the types of skills desired in the non-profit sector? What are the best jobs for journalists there? How can you find them? How can you convince hiring managers and recruiters for non-profit groups that you would be right for their organization? And what about the non-profit pay gap from the private sector — is that real?

Here are answers to some of these questions from experts in the non-profit sector and their tips for journalists who are seriously considering making a shift to this world:

*Do your homework. Don’t even approach contacts in the non-profit world until you have researched some organizations you would be interested in joining and have carefully studied their job descriptions. It’s not helpful to call them and ask (though hiring managers and recruiters  say they get these calls) whether they think your journalism skills  might be a good fit. Instead, do research and prepare targeted questions about non-profit groups, job descriptions and career paths in this world — the same as you would do if you were networking to get a journalism job. Study the listings on job boards and list serves to see what skills are required for the jobs that interest you — and note which of these skills you have and which you’d need to develop.

*Start learning the language of the non-profit world. Some journalism skills transfer well but the job titles are often quite different, says Claire Kittle, executive director of Talent Market, a recruiting company that focuses on non-profit groups. Non-profit openings that may be good for transitioning journalists include: grant writers (“everybody needs a grant writer right now, as fund raising is very important,” Kittle says); communications directors and professionals; writers and editors on specific policy topics (though recruiters in this field say organizations often prefer an individual with long policy experience who can write well to a former journalist who has covered a specific policy area, unless the policy coverage was quite targeted);  and increasingly, investigators — especially for state-based groups to track spending and other issues with the push for transparency in government. All of these require journalism skills and may be a good way into the non-profit world for “recovering” journalists.

*Non-profit groups have their pick of the litter as well these days and are often overwhelmed with applicants. So you need ways to stand out and at the same time, convince them that your skills are just what they need. One idea is to seek a kind of tryout, effectively offering up your skills to the employer so that they can see what a good candidate you would make for the position. Offer to write or edit a piece — either for free or for a free-lance fee if the hiring manager seems open to that — to prove you can write or edit in the tone and style they need, which will undoubtedly be different from that of the copy you handled at a news organization. By showing them your skills and willingness to work hard to get the job, you may be able to push your resume higher in their pile. “Especially in this market, folks just need to approach this with a healthy does of humility and realize they may have to work a little harder to get noticed and prove myself,” says Kittle.

*Finally, the pay gap issue. Obviously, it depends on the group and the position, say non-profit experts. Some D.C. groups — especially non-profit start-ups — may pay $10,000 to $20,000 less than positions in the private sector. Yet established organizations here often have pay scales that are similar to those of private sector and government agencies, especially if they have solid funding streams. It’s smart to do research on how a non-profit is funded before you move too far along in the hiring process — not only to determine the health of their finances but also whether you’d be comfortable with where their money comes from and the strings that may be attached to that. Certain positions at non-profits — such as communications directors and grant writers — may actually pay a premium for the right talent. And non-profit experts say more established groups increasingly are adopting pay-for-performance structures that mimic those in the private sector.

*More good news today (if this keeps up, this blog will become downright sappy!!) — Jon Allen, a member of the CQ “Gang of 45” and a Dirksen Award winner for congressional coverage, has landed well — again! Jon, who snared a writing job at POLITICO within days of the Sept. 24 layoff at CQ/Roll Call, will become executive director of Florida Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s leadership PAC. It’s called the Democrats Win Seats PAC, or DWS PAC. Though this is a loss for journalism, it’s the political world’s gain — and another good Hill source for some of us. Congrats, Jon!

*And thanks so much to everyone for the congratulatory messages to me on my new job (this coming Monday, Dec. 14, I will join the Washington bureau of the American Banker as a senior editor). I was very touched yet overwhelmed by all the good wishes yesterday; please excuse me if it takes me a day or two to respond. And yes, I plan to keep up this blog but will need help from everyone with contributions and ideas!

*As always, some job and free-lance leads to mention. The hat tip on the first two is to the Pulse at

*Thomson Reuters is looking for an economic policy specialist to be based in D.C.:

Become Reuters’ economic policy guru

Thomson Reuters is searching for a Washington DC-based economic policy specialist to join its new financial multimedia service, “Reuters Insider.”

The editor will help shape the service’s economic coverage, through developing story ideas, appearing on “Reuters Insider” programs, and interviewing newsmakers in the studio and in the field.

As far as experience, the candidate should have, “Three to six years experience working as an economic journalist. Strong contacts at the White House, Treasury, Fed, and the Hill Ability to explain complex economic policies, interpret economic data, and make connections between them…”

For more information check out the full job listing from

*Web free-lance writers are being sought by Demand Studios:

Have excellent writing and grammar skills? Demand Studios says it has plenty of work to go around.

Demand Studios – the main content production studio for websites including,, and others – is looking for freelance writers to produce informative, short-form online articles for an audience of over 50 Million people to read.

In the studios’ listing, they said the successful applicant will “have immediate access to view, filter and claim assignments from our large library of available article titles, eliminating the need for you to pitch story ideas.”

*The hat tip on the next two openings is to

*Slate has an opening for a project manager in D.C. or NYC:

Project Manager

Publication or Company The Slate Group
Industry Internet/Online/New Media
Benefits 401K/403B, Dental, Health
Job Duration Full Time
Job Location Arlington, VA USA
Job Requirements The Slate Group – Project Manager
Location: Washington DC or New York, NY

The Slate Group is looking for an experienced project manager to join our team. As one of the most influential and widely read news and culture magazines, Slate combines the innovation of a web-only property with the quality and authority youd expect from an organization owned by The Washington Post Company. Slate is the centerpiece of an expanding family of sites including Double X, The Root, Slate V, The Big Money, and Foreign Policy.

The Project Manager will coordinate projects across the Slate Group, this will include running sprint meetings and coordinating across teams to make sure the project keep flowing smoothly. The project manager will ensure that projects are delivered efficiently, on time and according to specification. Success will require an assertive personality that is able to track projects across groups and get an accurate sense of potential roadblocks. The project manager will also be responsible for reporting the status of projects in a way that is visible to all the project stakeholders. This role will not just be responsible for reporting on projects but also for keeping things moving to meet the Slate Group project delivery schedule.

This Role will serve mainly as project manager for larger projects across the Slate Group, but experience writing requirements and the ability to jump in and help spec some new functionality out is important.

The project manager role at Slate will be a unique opportunity for an entrepreneurial project manager to shape the way the Slate Group develops and tracks new projects.


  • Full-cycle agile project management to get Slate Group projects deployed on time and to specification.
  • Coordinating with cross functional teams including: development, design, editorial, business and marketing to ensure they have visibility into the project pipeline.
  • Define project scope, goals and deliverables that support business goals in collaboration with senior management and stakeholders.
  • Plan and schedule project timelines and milestones using appropriate tools.
  • constantly monitor and report on progress of the project to all stakeholders

Requirements & Qualifications

  • 5+ years business experience as a project manager at a fast paced internet business.
  • Experience working in an agile environment, running sprints and coordinating teams.
  • Ability to manage multiple projects at any given time
  • Proven ability to work across functional teams to deliver project to schedule and specification
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills
  • BA required

About The Slate Group
The Slate Group is an online publishing subsidiary of The Washington Post (NYSE: WPO) that produces savvy web-only publications that are provocative and engaging. Reaching a combined audience of more than 6 million unique users per month, its suite of Web sites includes Slate Magazine, Slate V,,, and most recently,

About Slate
Slate ( is a daily online magazine that offers fresh angles on stories in the news and innovative entertainment coverage, all with their signature wit and irreverence. Pushing the boundaries of convention, Slate publishes provocative commentary on topics such as politics, culture, business and technology. Slate is owned by The Washington Post Company (NYSE: WPO).

About Our Company Washington Post Digital (WPD) is the new-media and electronic-publishing subsidiary of The Washington Post Company. Headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, WPDs flagship products include,,,,, Foreign Policy and

Washington Post Digital (WPD) is the The Washington Post Company’s new-media and electronic-publishing subsidiary. WPD’s flagship products include,,,, and is an award-winning news, information and entertainment resource on the internet. Local, national and international users look to as the source of The Washington Post online. The website offers the day’s Washington Post, breaking news coverage and extensive original news content, as well as a growing suite of cultural, community and commerce services that make it the definitive guide to Greater Washington.

The corporate culture at WPD is fast-paced and intense, yet casual and supportive. Our state-of-the-art corporate office is located in the Arlington Courthouse area, within walking distance of the Metro, shopping, movie theaters and numerous restaurants. Our in-house coffee bar, fitness center, game room and massage services add to the ambiance of our dynamic office. WPD’s emphasis on teamwork, innovation and creativity and our dedication to our employees have helped make us a world-class, award-winning organization with an exciting future.

*And finally, a senior director of new media in D.C. is being sought by ONE, an advocacy group co-founded by Bono:

Senior Director, New Media

Publication or Company ONE
Industry Internet/Online/New Media, Non-profit
Salary Negotiable
Benefits 401K/403B, Dental, Health
Job Duration Full Time
Job Location Washington, DC USA
Job Requirements The Senior Director, New Media is responsible for developing and executing a comprehensive, global online strategy and for ensuring ONEs new media platform enhances its overall effectiveness in the following areas: branding, communications, campaigning, and membership development. The new media director is responsible for leading and managing ONEs team of online communications and campaigning professionals who operate ONEs web platform, develop its content, and promote it, both online and off. The Senior Director, New Media is responsible for all aspects of ONEs digital presence, including and related websites, the ONE Blog, and web- and email-based campaigns. The Senior Director, New Media is also responsible for ONEs use of social networks, mobile technology, and for technology vendors and partnerships. This is senior leadership position will work out of our Washington DC office.

Requires Bachelors degree and at least five years significant experience in online communications, campaigning, and/or membership; proven ability to develop and manage a major public facing online presence with multiple properties and extensive content and digital assets; significant experience and understanding of the technical side of hosting and managing a major web presence, including internet architecture, database design and administration, engineering/application development, content management, CMS, security, etc.; significant experience leading and managing large scale online campaigning/activism, including experience managing and growing a very large email list; significant experience in developing and managing effective websites for international audiences; understanding of how the web and email are different outside the United States; significant experience successfully leading and managing a team with diverse skill sets; proven motivator and developer of people; proven collaboration skills; exceptional verbal, written, and online communication skills, including email writing and editing; ability to manage multiple projects in a fast-paced, deadline-driven environment; positive outlook and exceptional interpersonal skills; ability to work with individuals at all levels of the organization; works well under pressure and tight deadlines; ability to travel internationally; and a sense of humor.

To apply, please submit your cover letter and resume to

About Our Company ONE is a global advocacy and campaigning organization backed by more than 2 million people from around the world dedicated to fighting extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa. Cofounded by Bono and other campaigners, ONE is nonpartisan and works closely with African policy makers and activists. ONE has offices in Washington, DC, London, Berlin, Brussels, and Abuja. For more information about ONE and to see the full job description, visit us at

Happy hunting out there! Be in touch!



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