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Getting started with solo work in the nonprofit industry

Ceylin Güven
December 20, 2022

Freelancers all possess a substantial amount of skills that, in addition to working, they might want to use to support charitable causes. Which is why freelancenonprofit jobs have been gaining significant popularity over the last few years. This act of giving back usually comes in two alternatives: Doing volunteer work for nonprofit organizations, or actually getting a job in the industry. We’ll talk about the difference between these options, as well as the intricacies of getting started with nonprofit work as a freelancer.

The benefits of doing nonprofit work as a freelancer

Even if you’re interested in doing nonprofit work, you might still be thinking about what's in it for you. A full-time career or education is challenging, and thinking about the advantages of philanthropic work might be helpful for motivation. These are some of them, and certainly not all:

  • Personal fulfillment by contributing to the greater good
  • More professional experience in your field
  • More professional autonomy and encouragement for creativity/innovation
  • Being part of an uplifting and passionate community focused on philanthropy
  • Ability to extend your skillset and grow your portfolio (we talk more on this later in the article)

Volunteer work vs. paying nonprofit projects

1. Volunteering for nonprofits

Volunteering for nonprofit organizations can come in many forms. Here are some of the most suitable ways for freelancers to volunteer:

  • The trusted, old fashion volunteering work is the most well-known option. These are acts of philanthropy that usually requires you to volunteer your time for a cause, rather than a skill. The most popular ways are either working at a shelter, fundraising events, sales stands, etc.
  • Another version of this is virtual volunteering, where you can conduct remote work for nonprofit organizations–once again, without getting paid. This option is mostly popular in nonprofit organizations that solely operate through online platforms, which are getting popular day by day.
  • Finally, you can consider doing pro bono work, which can also be called skills-based volunteering. You can use your specialized skillset to aid the nonprofit with certain tasks, without getting money in return. This is perhaps the most impactful volunteering option for freelancers; because you would still be using your business-related skills, gaining valuable experiences, as well as expanding your portfolio in the meantime.

2. Paid work in the nonprofit sector

Doing paid work for nonprofit organizations is also an option. This will give you business experience and help your finances, in addition to giving you personal fulfillment. If you’re a freelancer, this is usually done by working on a contract-based model, where you’ll be providing your services for a certain project (building their website, designing a banner, writing a certain text, etc.). If you build strong connections, part-time working and long-term agreements are also possible.

In-demand freelance jobs in the nonprofit industry

Nonprofit organizations can leverage the skills of freelancers in a number of different ways. Here are some of the most in-demand works you can do in the nonprofit sector:

  • Grant writing
  • Event planning and coordination
  • Marketing and social media management
  • IT and technological consulting
  • Web design/development and graphic design
  • Data analysis
  • Writing and editing
  • Accounting and financial management/consulting
  • Project management
  • Human resources and recruiting

And of course, keep in mind that there might be additional job openings based on the interest areas of nonprofits. For example, if you work for a nonprofit that fundraises for a certain cause, you can find jobs as a fundraising manager, fundraising campaign supervisor, etc.

How to get started with serving nonprofit organizations

Whether you want to do pro bono work or get a job in the nonprofit sector, below are some important actionable tips for your work-seeking process:

Identify your skills and talents

Before applying into the nonprofit sector, you should identify your useful skills and play into them. Like we mentioned above, there are certain skills that are more in-demand based on the foundations and organizations. To make yourself a more desired candidate, you can also consider expanding your skill set according to our list before starting the application process.

Research causes you’re interested in

Especially if you’re going to be doing pro bono work, it’s important that you care about the causes you’re working in favor of. Otherwise, you might end up feeling disconnected from your volunteering experience, be demotivated, and even experience burnout.   To avoid this, you should find nonprofit organizations you’re interested in. If you’re not passionate about the nonprofit’s mission, it will be harder to stay dedicated and set aside time for volunteering.Research nonprofits that support causes you’re interested in aiding. You can also try to find local organizations to volunteer for, so that you truly feel like you’re serving the community.

Create a gripping portfolio

Building a strong portfolio can be life-changing when it comes to booking jobs as a freelancer. It’s the easiest way to showcase your skills and expertise in your field. Pro bono work is also a great way to grow and expand your portfolio, especially if you’re a student or budding freelancer.

Join nonprofit circles & communities  

Joining nonprofit communities will allow you to communicate with like-minded people, create unique opportunities for socialization to help your mental health, and grow your network all at the same time. Learning more about the industry from experts in the field is a huge bonus.  Afterwards, all you need to do is pitch your freelance services to nonprofit organizations, and you’re bound to come across a great opportunity in no time!

Balancing pro bono work with paid work

If you decide to do pro bono work in addition to working as a solopreneur, you should first take calculated steps to preserve a healthy work and life balance. Failing to balance the two sectors can lead to major difficulties, such as financial anxiety. One thing you can do is to set clear boundaries between your personal life, professional life, and volunteering life. You shouldn’t give one part of your life more time and effort than it deserves–everything needs to be healthily balanced.  The trick to sparing time to do pro bono work is using the right tools as a freelancer. We all know how stressful and time-consuming it can be to manage your invoices and payments, deal with contracts, and work on your projects at the same time. The all-in-one tool built for solo talents, Ruul allows you to get your career under your own rule by easing your admin tasks. Join now to see how Ruul can help you enhance your solo career.


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