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How to write a cover letter for not-for-profit organizations

Posted by | March 14, 2014 | career resources

Your cover letters is your chance to sell yourself to the employer, to prompt the recruiter to read your CV and to gain an interview.

The role of the application letter is to draw a clear connection between the job you are seeking and your qualifications listed in the CV. The letter matches the requirements of the job with your qualifications, emphasizing how you are right for that job. The application letter is not a lengthy summary of the CV but should be used to highlight and elaborate on the key points in your CV, which are of particular relevance to the employer.

There is no strict formula for an application letter as different jobs may require different approaches. Employers can spot standardised letters that are sent out on mass, so you must tailor every letter to be uniquely relevant to each role you apply for. It is best to make sure that the letter is on a formal footing but also friendly and that you pay attention to your writing style, your spelling and grammar.

Many cover letters tend to be long winded but it is best to try to keep it to 1 page and to no more than 3 – 4 paragraphs that consist of short, simple sentences.


The first paragraph of the application letter is the most important; it sets everything up – the tone and focus. Try to provide him/her with a reason to carry on reading your application letter and make the first paragraph an attention-grabbing one!! It is a good idea to begin by addressing the letter to a particular person if you can get hold of this information. This paragraph should be brief and to the point, indicating which job you are applying for (including a job reference number if there is one) as well as the source of your information (newspaper advertisement, personal contact, etc.) and an explanation as to why you have applied for this job.

 Main Body

In the main parts of the application letter, you present your work experience, education, training – whatever makes that connection between you and the job you are seeking. Remember that this is the most important job you have to do in this letter – to enable the reader to see the match between your qualifications and the requirements for the job.

It may be a good idea to split the body into two paragraphs with the first focusing on the needs of the company and role requirements. You need to explain why you have applied to them, indicating the main job requirements. This will show you have done research into the organization, tailoring the letter to them to be unique. In the following paragraph you need to match these to your skills and abilities, highlighting why you are right for the job and elaborating your achievements. Try to include information not already on your CV, be positive and confident and write it with a bias to the future rather than the past.   

Closing Paragraph

In the last paragraph of the application letter, you can indicate how the prospective employer can get in touch with you and when are the best times for an interview. This is the place to urge that prospective employer to contact you to arrange an interview. It is important to end the letter strongly and on a positive note. End the letter with something like ‘I very much look forward to hearing from you’ and ‘Yours Sincerely’ and finally, don’t forget to sign and print your name! Once you have written your letter, check it several times for any mistakes you may have made and check all the information you have provided them with is correct and accurate. Align the company address to the left side and your address to the right and make sure the paragraphs are justified, the font is the same throughout the letter and on your CV and that it looks neat and tidy!!

If you are not replying to an advertised position, it is more appropriate to write a speculative letter to a company that you would like to work for. The cover letter will therefore be slightly different, it should begin by stating what work you are particularly seeking, say why you want to work for this company and ask for your CV to be kept and to be contacted if any vacancies open.

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