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Creating a standout CV for charity and not-for-profit roles

Writing a CV is something we have all done or will need to do during our careers. Whilst there is plenty of generic content online giving tips and guidance, the sector you are seeking to enter is also a factor in how you compose this important document.

Writing a CV is something we have all done or will need to do during our careers. Whilst there is plenty of generic content online giving tips and guidance, the sector you are seeking to enter is also a factor in how you compose this important document. There are specific strategies and techniques unique to the charity and not-for-profit sectors that must be utilised to ensure that even with just a quick read, your CV grabs enough attention to be passed to the hiring manager.

In a fast-paced world where we scroll through newsfeeds in seconds, we process information very quickly and scan for headline details in seconds. Our CV will go through that same process only with an individual such as the hiring manager, HR or an assistant assessing our merits rapidly to decide if we go forward to the next stage. Your CV, therefore, must have enough about it to earn the right to be put in front of the hiring manager.

To make sure yours gets noticed, use short sentences and bullet points whenever possible so that key information is easy to find at a glance. Also, keep your CV concise by limiting it to two pages or less if possible – anything longer could appear overwhelming and be quickly passed over.

How to structure your CV

These are some of our tips for key content in a CV suitable for the charity sector:

  1. At the top of the CV is where you put all your personal details, name, contact details and if appropriate, your LinkedIn profile.

  2. You then need a punchy opening paragraph or summary. This needs to showcase your values and alignment with the position and organisation. Remember the first half of the CV is where you need to, proverbially, hit the hiring manager in the face.

  3. Then make 2 columns of your key skills 8-10 in total, 4-5 in each column, and make sure they match the skills mentioned in the job description.

  4. In your experience section, for each role state your main responsibilities and key achievements. This needs to be specific particularly if you are coming from outside the sector. Use key words from the job description, advert and mission/values of the organisation.

  5. State your education and hobbies at the end, but only if relevant.

  6. If you have relevant voluntary work then have a volunteer experience section, so that you can further demonstrate your commitment to the sector.

Content for CV vs cover letter

Creating effective CVs and supporting statements can be tricky but by following some key steps it doesn't have to be difficult. When building your CV, make sure it is easy to read and clearly lays out all relevant information in a concise manner. Include specific achievements…more on that shortly!

For a supporting statement, focus on exploring how your education and career experience has prepared you for this specific role – demonstrate how your skillset makes you uniquely qualified while providing evidence of how it could contribute to the charity’s success. Writing from the heart helps here too — include anecdotes or stories that show not only why you're perfect for the position but also why you're passionate about the cause and role.

Showcase your achievements

Remember a CV is your first opportunity in the recruitment process to blow your own trumpet. Whilst you likely work as part of a team, get specific about what you personally added:

  • “Part of a team that generated £10M in funds, of that, I brought in 32%.”

For this sector, the reader, therefore, needs to see your achievement in tangible numbers:

  • For fundraisers, show targets hit - get these numbers on your CV.

  • If corporate sponsorship, show figures “I grew corporate partnerships from x amount to x”.

  • For senior leadership roles, readers want the turnover of the organisation, size of team and impact measurements.

Include details about any awards or recognition you have received, as well as any successful projects or initiatives you have been involved in throughout your career – these will demonstrate that you are capable of achieving results even when faced with difficult tasks or challenges.

By highlighting these successes in addition to providing detailed information about previous roles and experience levels, you can give potential employers confidence that hiring you would be beneficial for their organisation.

Shaping your career

You do not need to completely rewrite your CV for every job; but create a blueprint document with your key achievements and tailor it to the organisation and role each time. An effective and relevant CV makes the reader feel that you particularly want to work for them.

Our Talent team are always willing to help, so please do get in touch and you can register for opportunities through Charisma. When applying for a role through Charisma, if called for interview with us, the consultant meeting you will be able to support you with tips and insights that will be helpful for your application.

Jasmine Mathers
Head of Talent
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