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The One Thing Nonprofits Can Do to Improve Their Job Descriptions Today

February 28th, 2017

When your nonprofit is hiring, it’s easy to get caught up in the minutiae of the position description. The responsibilities, the daily tasks, the desired skills and experience—you could spend hours outlining what the job entails and the kind of person you’re looking for.

But there’s something even more important to focus on.

Nonprofits attract a specific kind of employee. A person who cares deeply. A person who wants to make a difference. A person hungry to be part of something bigger than just another company. Whether you’re an international charity with a big budget, or a small foundation with salaries to match, remember that you’re not trying to attract any old employee. You’re looking for someone who will fit well into a nonprofit atmosphere—someone who cares.

That’s why the easiest way to improve your job description is to talk about your mission.

Your mission is the heart and soul of your nonprofit, and you can use it to your advantage in your job listings. This is your chance to inspire great candidates to apply! It doesn’t matter whether you’re looking for a bookkeeper, an administrative assistant, or a development director—everyone you hire should be passionate about your mission.

And it’s not enough to copy and paste your mission statement from your company website. This calls for some thoughtful writing. Follow these steps to craft a 2-3 sentence mission description to add to your job listing:

  1. Sit down and think deeply about why your mission is exciting, important, and/or meaningful. Think about why you wanted to work there in the first place. Think about your co-workers and colleagues, and what inspires them to come in every day. What is the basic goal you’re all working towards together?
  2. Write down a sentence or two that explains your mission in simple, easy to understand terms. Clarity is key at this point—it should make sense to someone who doesn’t know anything about your organization and may be hearing about it for the first time.
  3. Next, do a revision to add some emotion to your basic statement. Ask yourself: What’s the most vital part of our mission? Who are the people we are helping? How are we helping them? How do we make the world a better place?
  4. Add the word “you.” Don’t just say “We” or “Our organization.” Say something like: “Your work will help change the world” or “You are important to our mission.” Help your candidates see themselves in the role, making a difference. Get them pumped to dive in.
  5. Sometimes it’s easier to talk it out than to write it down. If you’re stuck, meet up with a friend and explain your mission to them. Can they understand what your nonprofit does in simple terms? What do they find enticing about it?

When done well, a brief description of your mission should inspire the right person to stop everything and apply for the job right then and there. Need some inspiration? Here are a few very brief examples of simplified missions that work perfectly within the context of a job description.

“Our organization advocates for environmental protections that prevent ocean pollution. You’ll come to work everyday knowing that you’re keeping our marine wildlife safe and making a better future for tomorrow’s children.”

“With your help, we can provide arts and cultural experiences to students in rural communities who might not otherwise have access. Together, we can inspire the next Mozart, Monet or Moliere.”

“Your role is crucial to supporting our mission of keeping at-risk LGBTQ teens in school and off the streets. Help us make a difference for over 10,000 kids in our community.”

“Every day, our organization helps people affected by domestic violence. You’ll be a vital part of our team as we do prevention outreach and provide emergency shelter for those in need.”

“When natural disaster strikes, our organization is there to help victims with food, water and medicine. And we can’t do it without you.”