The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Charity CV

5 minute read

So, you’re thinking of starting a career in the charity sector? Great! But then comes the not-so-great part… writing your CV.

The key to a successful job search is a flawless, well-written and highly targeted charity CV. After all, it’s your first chance to grab the recruiter’s attention and secure an interview.

So, without further delay, let us share our top tips for writing the perfect charity CV.


How to lay out your charity CV

There’s no one right way to lay out your CV. The type of CV you decide on should reflect the job you’re applying for and the experience you have.

The most common style is the chronological CV, where you put your experience in chronological order, starting with the most recent. But you can also create a skills-based CV where you lead with your key skills and put a description under each skill detailing the experience you have to prove it.

Just as there’s no set style for the perfect charity CV, there’s also no set structure. You can put the sections in whichever order you prefer, but keep in mind that you want the key information to be what the recruiter reads first.

Here’s a list of the key sections to include in your CV:

  • Contact details. Just your name, email and/or phone number will do.
  • Personal profile. This is a short section (1-3 sentences) summarising your industry skills, knowledge and experience.
  • Previous experience. You can include both paid and voluntary roles here or keep them separate if you prefer. Include the name of the organisation, date of when you started (and when you left if you’d like) and what you did.
  • Education and qualifications. Here you can also detail any relevant training you’ve completed.
The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Charity CV

Keep it clear and concise

Your CV should be no longer than two A4 pages. Remember the person reading it is probably already in the middle of a very busy day, so cut down where you can and use your cover letter to express your motivation to work for the charity in question.

If you use an unclear layout or font, big blocks of text and little-to-no subheadings, the recruiter is going to quickly lose patience. Fancy designs can catch the eye, but you don’t want them to distract from what you’re actually trying to say. And make sure you leave white space to distinguish between sections. Without it, it won’t be easy for readers to find the information they’re looking for.

Use a professional, clear font such as Arial or Calibri in a size 10 or 12 and make sure to bold your headings. If there are any particularly impressive achievements or skills that you want employer’s eyes to be drawn to, use bold for them as well―but don’t go overboard.

It’s worth noting that you can be professional without being stiff and corporate. Depending on the nature of the work you’ll be doing, it’s okay to use slightly less formal language (but make sure you don’t lapse on structure and style).


Do your research

It can be extremely tempting, but don’t fire out the same CV to multiple charities. If you aren’t tailoring your CV to the specific company and role, it tells them that you’re not that interested in their position―instead, you simply want any job you can get. This definitely won’t leave a positive impression on employers. It’s vital that you tailor every CV you submit to the specific industry, company and role you’re applying for.

Before you even start writing your charity CV, commit to carrying out some thorough research on the company and reviewing the job description. Your overall aim should be to match the candidate specification and prove that you’d make the perfect match for the organisation. If you can mention a campaign they’ve done recently then even better―your enthusiasm will shine through!

mistakes on cv

Highlight your skills and experience

Keywords can make or break your charity CV. If you don’t use them at all, the recruiter might find it harder to see why you’re a good match for the role―especially if your CV is being reviewed by an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) in the first instance.

However, remember that the content needs to read well, so don’t shove words in for the sake of it. Instead, read through the job description and highlight any of the desired skills or qualities you possess. Use these carefully throughout your application to get the balance just right. If you match the role, this should come across quite naturally in your CV.

If you don’t have direct experience that matches the role, don’t despair! Transferable skills are just as important to highlight on your charity CV. Maybe you worked in hospitality while you were studying. Some of the skills you gained there might make you a good candidate for a fundraising role. Just be careful about what you do and don’t include, because it’s the first impression a recruiter will have of you.


Voluntary work matters

Volunteering experience demonstrates that you’re passionate, committed, and genuinely care about something enough to give up your own free time to help out. If you volunteered while studying or working, even better―this shows you’re extremely organised. Charities want to see these qualities from you, so don’t stick your voluntary work at the bottom of your CV in a tiny font―treat it as you would a job by including dates and what you achieved while there.

If you volunteered with the charity you’re applying to, then big it up even more! Voluntary work is always worthwhile and could even be the foot in the door that leads to full-time employment.

decide your own workload - self-employed fundraiser

Always include evidence

Charities want to work with people who can bring results and show a real drive and passion for the organisation. Think about the value you added in previous roles, even if they were voluntary.

The best way to explain why you’re the right person for the role is by providing examples of your past achievements and adding statistics to these where possible. For example, instead of simply stating that you’re a great communicator, you could write: “Listened to upwards of 30 calls a day on the charity helpline in order to offer the best advice to callers.”

Share any big impact projects you were involved in. How many shares did the video you made for a charity’s social media channels receive? Have you ever surpassed a fundraising target―if so, by how much and how did you achieve that? Did you use partnerships to get flyers printed for a cut price or manage to get supermarkets to donate dog food to a shelter?


Remember to proofread

We can’t stress this enough―check, check, and check again! If your charity CV is full of spelling and grammatical errors, it can look unprofessional or like you didn’t care enough about the role to bother re-reading your application. Also, remember to use the active voice over the passive to show that you are a doer. If you can, let others have a look at your CV and take all comments as constructive feedback.


Perfecting your charity CV is key to landing the job you want, so ensure that you invest plenty of time into crafting it. If you communicate your suitability and value right from the start, your application will make employers sit up and take notice.

So, good luck―and here’s to happy job hunting!

Still need a bit more guidance? Take a look at our free non-profit CV template.


This post was originally published in 2017 and has been updated to ensure relevance and to reflect the current jobseeker experience.


Benita Culshaw

Benita is Digital Content Assistant at CharityJob

You might also like...