Job ads are your most important tool to reach potential candidates. Here’s the first thing you need to do to make them amazing.


“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. . . . if you hire people who believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood, and sweat and tears.”
Simon Sinek

As a not-for-profit organisation, your staff and volunteers are what makes your organisation succeed or fail.

So it follows that hiring dedicated people who are passionate about your vision and purpose is incredibly important!

That’s why when you’re putting together a job ad, the most important part of the ad isn’t the specific tasks of the role or even what your organisation does, but a short explanation of your organisation’s purpose – why you do what you do.

Put this important info into the ad as early as possible – grab the candidate’s attention rather than making them read through paragraphs of text to find it.

What is your “why”?

Your purpose is not the same as the activities you undertake, or what sort of clients you work with. It’s the reason why your organisation exists in the first place.

If you’re a homelessness organisation, your purpose isn’t to provide housing, it’s to end homelessness, or to address the injustice at the heart of the current system of housing provision.

If you’re an environmental organisation, your purpose isn’t to run campaigns or do community education, it’s to protect the planet’s wild places, or to stop the climate from overheating.

How to find your “why”

If your organisation is going to spend tens of thousands of dollars paying someone to do a job, it’s really worth spending a little bit of time to make sure the ad for the role is good enough to attract the right candidates!

There are two different “whys” that you can communicate in your job ad – the why of the organisation, and the why of the role.

In many organisations the person responsible for writing a job ad may be somewhat removed from the role itself. So talking to other people is valuable.

First, talk to either the person supervising the role or, where possible, the person currently in the role. Ask them what difference they make in their job? What makes them get out of bed and come to work in the morning?

To find out the why of the organisation, ask the people whose job it is to “sell” your mission. That might be your Fundraising Manager, your communications team, or if you can get a moment of their time, your CEO.

How to explain your “why” in a job ad

Example 1

The Example Foundation provides accommodation and support services for young people in need.

As the General Manager you will be responsible for overseeing the strategic direction of the organisation, and working with the Board of Management and staff. Your role will be focussed on ensuring that funding agreements and project objectives are fulfilled in a timely manner and according to all legal and contractual requirements.

Not exactly inspiring, is it?

Lots of organisations provide services to young disadvantaged people, and lots of General Managers have these exact same duties. Why should a passionate, talented and dedicated future worker apply for this job over the dozens of others that might be available?

Now this example:

Example 2

The Example Foundation exists to address the injustices faced by young people who don’t receive the advantages that most Australians take for granted growing up.

As the General Manager of the Example Foundation you’ll make a real difference to the lives of thousands of young people by supporting and empowering our staff and the local community to work together with kids who’ve had a tough start in life. Your contribution will ensure that all of our vital programs have the resources and leadership they need to make a real difference to the children we work with.

In this example, the why of the organisation is front and centre, and then the purpose (not the tasks or responsibilities!) of the role follows closely behind. The specific tasks and responsibilities of the role might follow after this.

People really do care about the “why”

If you want to know just how important purpose is for job-seekers, consider the results of’s survey of almost 5,000 ethical job-seekers from November 2014.

When asked, ethical job-seekers said the two most important factors when considering whether to apply for a job were:

1) An employer that has a positive social or environmental impact

2) A particular role/job that has positive social or environmental impact

These ranked above salary, working conditions, potential career path and six other factors in terms of importance.

In a nutshell: people who want to work in the NFP sector want to know they’re making a real difference!

So with this in mind, perhaps it’s time to start working on the “why” for your next job ad.

Do you have any tips on how to get people excited about your organisation through your  job ads? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

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