Nonprofit Organizations

Nonprofit is a broad term used to describe a sector that encompasses many different types of organizations. Technically, nonprofit status refers to a provision in the tax code that permits these organizations to operate. Functionally, the term nonprofit is used to refer to mission-driven organizations, with a focus on promoting social good or providing a societal benefit.

Many types of organizations fall under the broad umbrella of nonprofits. However, keep in mind that some types of organizations may fall under the category of either nonprofit or for-profit/business, depending on how they operate. For example, Princeton University is a nonprofit organization, as are many colleges and universities. But there are also for-profit colleges and universities. Hospitals are an example of an entity that may be nonprofit, for-profit, or government-run. Businesses may have units that focus on social impact or corporate social responsibility.

Foundations are one type of organization that can be broadly classified as nonprofits. But even here, one can draw distinctions between private foundations and public charities. In general, foundation work involves all aspects of making grants to charitable organizations.

Non-governmental organizations (NGO) are another type of nonprofit. NGOs are citizen-based groups that function independently of government and typically operate on a large scale to support national and international projects for causes such as disaster relief and human rights. 

You can do additional research on this field in the Firsthand Guide to Nonprofit Jobs

To learn more about Princeton resources for specific types of career paths that are typically thought of as falling into the category of nonprofit work, see the following pages: 

Gaining experience

Participate in clubs, organizations and other co-curricular opportunities at Princeton in the areas you are passionate about. This will help you further explore your interests and develop transferable skills and direct experience in the areas that interest you. You can research opportunities through the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students and the Graduate School websites.


Hiring process and timeline

Nonprofits typically post jobs and internships as vacancies happen and do not have set recruiting cycles. Prepare to begin your search for jobs or summer internships two to four months ahead of your desired start date. Focus on identifying organizations whose mission and causes align with your own and check their websites for listings. 

There are a few exceptions to these timelines for nonprofit opportunities. Some internship/fellowship programs have deadlines in early to mid-fall for the following summer, including Princeton Internships in Civic Service (PICS) and Princeton Project 55 Fellowships. It is best to check directly with the organizations of interest for internship/fellowship programs for opportunities and deadlines.

Professional organizations and associations

Professional organizations and associations are membership-based groups comprised of people working in a similar field. They can be helpful resources for students to learn more about a field, develop connections and discover related opportunities. You can search for related organizations and associations using a database provided by the Princeton University Library.

Princeton Alumni