Host a nonprofit career fair on your university campus
The nonprofit sector is a great place to find a career with meaning. Hosting a nonprofit career fair at your college or university is a great way to connect students (and staff, and the community) with local organizations and their job (and internship, and volunteer) opportunities.
Setting: Higher Education
Want to try this?
There may be some people who want to join you.
Gregory R. Flores
Associate Director of Career Services
Advising and Career Services Portland State University
Portland, Oregon, U.S.A.
What they did
For the past 12 years, Portland State University (PSU) has hosted nonprofit career fairs so students and the local community can connect with a broad range of organizations. Promoting the sector, and the diversity of experience it can offer job seekers, allows PSU to exercise its values of community and civic engagement.
How you can do it
Decide exactly what you want to do, as well as when and how. PSU holds their fair every year on one day in November between 11:00 am and 3:00 pm, which enables many people to attend during their lunch hour. There is a nominal cost to nonprofits to table at the fair; PSU provides them with lunch.
Decide who to invite. PSU’s invite list consists of local nonprofit organizations, with an emphasis on service-oriented ones.
Know the audience you’re looking to attract. For PSU, it’s a broad audience of students from their university, students from other universities, and the local community.
Promote your efforts. Do this regularly, and use as many sources as possible. Harness the power of campus media and donated advertising space in local publications. Four months out from their event, PSU starts promoting the fair to organizations. Their outreach focuses on nonprofits who have attended the fair in the past, and those who’ve posted jobs on the PSU website. They also use local partners, nonprofit networks, other universities, and social media, and they email all 30,000 PSU students. They also ensure that reminders go out to those who have registered as the date of the fair gets closer.
Have a robust registration system. This will ensure an easy sign-up process for both organizations and students. If there isn’t an option to do it through an in-house system on your website, there are many free event management tools out there. One well-known option is Eventbrite, but there are dozens of others.
Ensure you have a good mix of staff and students on hand so the day goes off without a hitch. Activities to manage during the day include:
Ensuring the room is ready well in advance: tables neatly set up and labeled with organizations’ names
Greeting all the organizations’ reps as they arrive, helping them find their table, ensuring they have everything they need to get set up. PSU provides tablecloths, bottled water, and free parking for every organization.
Organizing any food (meal or snacks) you offered to provide
Putting signage up to direct attendees
Setting up and staffing the sign-in table and ensuring that all collateral material is ready, including a welcome letter for nonprofits, nametags, markers, and a map that shows attendees where all the organizations are located in the room
Managing attendance. Another challenge is handling organizations who cancel or decide to register at the last minute. Consider maintaining a wait list so that interested organizations can fill up any suddenly-open spots, and be prepared with extra tables and supplies for last-minute additions.
Continually improve your event. Listen to both your attendees and organizations for their suggestions to make your event even better next year. Sending surveys to attendees right after the fair is a great way to solicit their ideas.
The PSU fair now averages 60 organizations and 300-400 attendees per year (though the connections its made are countless!). Students get a real taste of the diversity of the nonprofit sector and the many opportunities it offers, and organizations are thrilled with the quality of candidates they meet.
Budgets for promoting the event can be tight, so ensure that you have good outreach partners to help spread the word for you.