How to Write a Job Description

Why write a job description for positions in your business, nonprofit, or ministry?

Simple: you want to get things done.

Good job descriptions are especially helpful for smaller organizations because staff, volunteers, and boards wear so many hats. By putting down a job description on paper, you’re forced to think through who is going to do it and when they’re going to do it.

Defining roles eliminates confusion and inertia and creates momentum. Job descriptions also cultivate an environment in which all the players know expectations. Finally, you’re protecting yourself and your organization. (Tip: ask your legal counsel to review job descriptions in order to protect you, the organization, and the board.)

What is a job description?

It’s a snapshot of a position’s responsibilities and the skills needed for it. The description outlines what the worker contributes so that your organization fulfills its mission.

When do you need to write a job description?

Not just when you’re posting a position on a nonprofit job board. Use a job description for paid positions, volunteer roles, committees or teams (including short-term commitments such as organizing events), and board members. Create them and tweak them at least annually (if not more often) during your annual meeting, staff meetings, and volunteer orientations in order to clarify everybody’s role.

Checklist of Job Description Elements

A good job description is big on clarity. It’s only as long as it needs to be. This checklist will help you include key elements when you write a job description for your nonprofit.

Title

Give the position a name that reflects its responsibilities.

Position Summary

Use one (two at most) sentence to describe the position.

Responsibilities

List the position’s functions. Use bullet points to identify between five and 10 responsibilities, beginning each one with a present-tense, action verb such as, "recruit 10 annual sponsors for events" or "load up new donor contact information into fundraising software weekly," specifying frequency where possible. Indicate the percentage of the worker's time to be spent with each task.

Checklist of Position Specifics

Location

Indicate if the position is on site (and where) or remote

Status

Indicate if the position is full-time, part-time, volunteer, or cyclical

Department

If your organization has its work divided into different program areas, specify which area this position serves. Answering this question helps the candidate, employee, or volunteer understand how her role fits into the whole unit.

Supervisor

Indicate who the worker will report to

Checklist of Position Requirements

Mandatory qualifications

What does the position require?

Preferred qualifications

Distinguish between qualifications that are mandatory and those that are preferred, including skills, years of experience, certifications, licenses, education level, and necessary technical proficiencies. Faith-based organizations should link to their statement of faith to ensure that candidates understand their world view and organizational culture.

Tip: Include an Organizational Overview

List your organization’s niche, mission, goals, headquarters location, kinds of programming, and website. Interested candidates can delve further into specifics on your website.

Tip: Create a Response Procedure

Describe to whom candidates should respond and what to include: a cover letter, resume, completed application. Indicate the means by they should respond, whether by email, surface mail, or phone.


See more writing tips on our Strategic Planning Pinterest board.

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