How to Bridge Skill Gaps in Nonprofits

Training to Bridge Skill Gaps in Non-profits
Written by - 25 Sep 2018 Category: Non-profit Challenges

For non-profits to efficiently deliver on their chosen mission, everyone in the organisation - from first-rung board members to last-rung staff members - must be in a position to leverage the potential of new technologies  and ideas.

For non-profits to efficiently deliver on their chosen mission, everyone in the organisation - from first-rung board members to last-rung staff members - must be in a position to leverage the potential of new technologies  and ideas. However, the Stanford Survey on Leadership and Management in the Non-profit Sector reveals crucial skill gaps that exist in the sector. Organisation of work and talent management constitute the major elements of this lacuna. This post dives into a broad category of skills inadequacies that majority of non-profits face and offers remedial measures.

Three Common Skill Gap Areas

1. Formal Education

In today's age, information is freely available. Professionals with specific skills in demand can often find lucrative opportunities, even without a college degree. But this does not undermine the importance of formal education. This is especially true for clerical staff who can do wonders with a more organised mindset developed through rigorous academic coursework.

To that effect, non-profits must encourage their staff to continue learning. Platforms such as Coursera make available high-quality instruction material from leading universities around the globe. These courses are often free; some paid courses can also be considered if one is interested in earning a degree or a certificate at the end of a qualifying exam. A good news for the non-profit sector is that Coursera has a separate section - called Coursera for Governments and Organizations - which caters to the specific needs of the social sector.


2. Technology and Data Skills

Technology and data skills are becoming more central to any organisation than ever before. This necessitates some level of technology familiarity in the non-profit staff. This is not as easy as it seems when we consider the fact that even technology professionals are striving hard to keep pace with the rapidly changing technical landscape. To expect non-profit staff to obtain absolute mastery of technical skills is neither practical, nor necessary. A balance point can be easily obtained with the help of basic training in commonly used technologies and tools.

To get going, operational understanding of the following utility tools will ensure that a non-profit is self-reliant in day-to-day operations and technical troubleshooting.

For Documents and Data

Google Drive/DropBox for centralised data storage

Google Sheets for spreadsheets

Google Docs for documents

Tableau/PowerBI for data analysis

For Collaboration

Slack for quick team chatting and collaboration

Trello for task management

Asana for team and project management for video conferencing

For Website and Communication

Wordpress for website content management

Google Analytics for website traffic analytics

MailChimp for email marketing

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn for social media engagement

For Staff Management

CiviHR for core HR functionalities - staff profiles, leaves and absences, tasks management, reports and dashboard etc

Quickbooks for Accounting

All the above tools are user-friendly and learning them should not be a challenge for any individual with basic computer skills. Integrating these tools into your daily work practices is where the trick lies.


3. Managerial Skills

Non-profits often fail to invest in crucial leadership development. In the recent Non-profit Leadership Report, only 20% non-profits claimed to be confident in their leadership. 70% of non-profit leaders planned to leave their jobs in the next 5 years. It is evident that there is an urgent need to fix these leadership gaps.

The core issue is not so much of leaders' ability, but rather the lack of planned development efforts. Non-profit leaders need to set clear, objective goals - in terms of the number of lives touched, turnover, costs, or any other parameters that are important to their mission. These goals then need to be drilled down to specific skill gaps that may prevent these goals from materialising. If "reaching a donor base of 1000 donors by the year-end" is a goal, non-profit executives must assess their skills with respect to marketing their donor programmes to the masses. At the leadership level, it would require strategic networking, public relations, and public speaking skills. The leaders must work on any identified gaps in this direction. Also, for leadership development to be a long-term success, current top-rung leaders must identify and nurture in-house leadership talent.

To conclude, building a skill-development programme must be a high-priority action item for any non-profit that lacks such an initiative. There are different ways in which one can proceed, but focussing on skills that directly facilitate the core mission or resolve immediate stumbling blocks must be the first step towards progress.

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This post is the next in the series of addressing specific challenges non-profits face, and builds on top of earlier posts on acquiring the right talent, addressing volunteer management challenges, and effectively managing a remote workforce.

About CiviHR

CiviHR is a project to create affordable HR software for non-profit organisations. By developing open source technology the benefits can be shared with non-profits everywhere.


CiviHR is a project to create affordable HR software for non-profit organisations. By developing open source technology the benefits can be shared with non-profits everywhere.