Professional Development

Top skills needed by nonprofit organizations

Written by Guest Contributor

Though the desire to work for nonprofit organizations increases with each new generation, nonprofits often struggle to find employees with the right skills. Younger generations have a strong desire to work in more meaningful fields and make a difference, but simply having the passion for enacting change is unfortunately not enough.

There are, of course, a general set of skills you should have these days if you want to impress a recruiter or hiring manager. However, nonprofits, especially, are on the hunt for individuals with particular skills and experience to ensure they can handle the scope of the job and the work they will need to do to help the company grow and succeed.

1. Leadership skills

Whether you want to work in a leadership position or not, having the qualities of a leader is something nonprofits are searching for. You must have the ability to speak up and effect change. Nonprofit organizations need individuals that take action, and that can inspire others to do so as well.

Working for a nonprofit is, at times, quite challenging. Staff and volunteers may feel discouraged and burnt out when things like donors and stakeholder promises don’t come through or take too long to effect a change in the community. But it’s at times like this that nonprofits desperately need employees who can stay positive and keep everyone motivated and focused on the central mission.

When applying for a position with a nonprofit, highlighting your leadership abilities is a must. You can list it as a skill on your resume, but when in an interview, it’s helpful to show and explain how exactly you embody a leader. You can do this by talking about past situations where you helped or inspired others to stay on task.

2. Good at multitasking

Multitasking is key if you want to work at a nonprofit. Most of the time, these organizations do not have the money or funding to support or staff every department. This means they need people who can wear more than one hat and take on multiple different roles. For example, they may ask you to take on a front-facing position and handle communicating with stakeholders and constituents one minute and then ask you to work behind the scenes in human resources and finance the next.

If you are looking only to do one thing for the organization and take on a singular role, no matter how good you are at that one thing, recruiters may pass on you. It’s better if you can highlight your primary skills but additionally show how you can adapt and take on multiple tasks they may get asked of you.

3. Professional communication skills

Not only do you need good communication skills in general if you want to work for a nonprofit, but you need to embody professionalism in how you interact with others as well. You never know who is on the other end of an email or who you may have to communicate with over video or in person. Nonprofits frequently work with and rely on stakeholders and donors, and one moment of poor communication can mean losing their support.

Whether you operate out of an office space or are working remotely, it’s important to dress professionally and maintain a clean and professional-looking space at all times. You may have to jump on a call or meet with someone at a moment’s notice, and sloppy attire or a messy desk space can give a bad impression. Even if the rest of your house is a disaster, the one space you should always endeavor to keep clean and attractive is your office space.

4. Accounting experience

Nonprofits often struggle with their finances, mainly relying on donors and grants to stay afloat. So, it’s critical for them to have employees who are not only comfortable working with constrained resources but who have experience handling finances and bookkeeping as well. Accountants who particularly have experience working with charitable organizations are even better.

While a nonprofit is not likely to turn someone away if they aren’t a trained accountant, it’s still a plus if you have some sort of experience budgeting and handling money for a company. Of course, if you have zero experience with finances, it’s not the end of the world, but it couldn’t hurt to take an online course or two to boost your chances and give you an edge.

5. Passion and humility

While having a passion for the cause may seem like the number one thing a nonprofit is looking for—and it is certainly something they want—most individuals seeking to do nonprofit work already have this quality. Still, even if it’s a given with most applicants, it’s worth mentioning because nonprofit work isn’t easy. At the end of a tough day or a bad week, you’ll need that passion to keep you going and motivated to continue showing up.

You should have a strong interest in philanthropic work and have a particular passion for the cause and mission of the nonprofit you are applying for. Additionally, you need to have a big dose of humility flowing through your veins. While some days you may interact with the community making empowering speeches, other days you may spend hours folding letters and sealing envelopes.

Essentially, if you want to stand out and appeal to a nonprofit, you’ve got to be willing to pitch in and lend a hand wherever you are needed. No task is too big or too small for you. You can wear the hat of a professional and inspiring leader, or you can happily and humbly sit at a desk making calls and processing paperwork. You’ll need to show that you can take on multiple roles, think on your feet, and are happy to do whatever is asked of you.

About the Author:
Jori Hamilton is an experienced writer residing in the Northwestern U.S. She covers a wide range of topics but takes a particular interest in covering topics related to business productivity and marketing strategies.

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Guest Contributor