As a nonprofit professional, you understand that investing in your staff is the best way to develop your organization. These changemakers are on the ground floor pushing initiatives forward, so you want your work environment to support their growth.

While some skills are innate, many nonprofit management skills can be taught. It’s up to you to provide your staff with the right development opportunities so they can become stronger leaders for your cause. To help you grow into a modern leader, we’ll explore these common nonprofit management skills you can (and should) develop at your own organization:

  1. Marketing
  2. Fundraising
  3. Public Speaking
  4. Interpersonal Communications
  5. Relationship-Building
  6. Strategic Planning
  7. Delegation
  8. Budget Allocation
  9.  Problem-Solving

Before training your team, invest in yourself. Getting certified in the nonprofit sector makes nonprofit professionals seven times more likely to reach the director level or higher. By investing your time and energy into gaining the necessary skills, you can set yourself up for success in your field. 

Before diving into vital nonprofit management skills, let’s explore how developing these skills enhances careers and strengthens the sector as a whole.

Become a CNP to develop your nonprofit management skills.

Why Developing Nonprofit Management Skills Is Important

Encouraging professional development aligns with the intrinsic values of many nonprofits, such as growth, learning, and community improvement. Investing in staff development not only enhances team members’ individual capabilities but also strengthens your organization’s ability to fulfill its mission. 

Here are some benefits of prioritizing professional development:

  • Better Adaptability: Nonprofits operate in rapidly changing environments. Employees who continuously learn are more adaptable and can better respond to new challenges, regulatory changes, or shifts in donor expectations.
  • Improved Performance and Innovation: Training initiatives lead to improved performance, creativity, and innovation in addressing complex social issues.
  • Higher Employee Retention: Employee appreciation research indicates that 34% of employees who leave their jobs do so because they crave more career development opportunities. Offering professional development opportunities can give employees a clear career advancement path and increase job satisfaction.
  • Improved Service Delivery: Enhanced competencies directly translate into improved program design and delivery, enabling your organization to make a greater impact.

In essence, encouraging professional development in your nonprofit not only benefits individuals but also boosts organizational capacity, resilience, and effectiveness. That makes it a critical investment for any nonprofit looking to achieve long-term success.

Nonprofit Management Skill #1: Marketing

The ability to create a marketing plan is instrumental to the success of any nonprofit professional. Especially when operating on a limited marketing budget, you need the ability to create an outreach plan that inspires prospects to get involved.

NXUnite’s nonprofit marketing guide explains that marketing trends always change, so you’ll want to revisit your strategies continuously. As that article explains, “just because your organization was up to date five years ago doesn’t mean you can’t change your branding or segmentation to be more current to the present day.” 

Tips for Improving Your Marketing Skills

Continuously adapting your marketing skills will help you connect with supporters. As you take a closer look at your marketing approach, incorporate these tips to improve your current skills and develop new ones:

  • Strengthen your digital marketing capabilities. Between social media and paid search ads, there’s a lot to learn about marketing your cause online. Be sure you understand who you can reach across different channels and what messages to promote on each platform. Certain channels, like Google Ads, will require you to acquire additional skills, such as keyword research.
  • Adapt your written communications. Your written communications allow you to reach your supporters, deliberate with colleagues, appeal to grant funders, and discuss your goals with sponsors. Advancing your written communication strategies will help you inspire different audiences.
  • Explore storytelling strategies. Storytelling is essential for effective outreach. Whenever you reach out to external audiences, tell your organization’s story and its role in the community. You’ll need to be able to communicate your impact authentically and hold conversations about how those causes impact whomever you’re speaking to. You should know how to use visuals to enhance those stories, too.

Luckily, there’s no shortage of nonprofit marketing resources out there. You can take courses to strengthen these skills and become a modern-day marketer.

Developing Paid Advertising Skills

Paid advertising, and Google Ads in particular, is a powerful tool for nonprofits to increase visibility, drive donations, and promote programs. Advertising skills can complement organic outreach efforts such as social media and email marketing, creating a well-rounded digital marketing strategy.

However, it requires a specific set of skills to be used effectively. Here are some unique skills required for this type of marketing:

  • Keyword selection involves understanding how to research keywords that are relevant to your mission and effectively reach the target audience. It also involves analyzing search trends and determining the intent behind searches.
  • Ad copywriting is vital for inspiring action. Messages need to be concise yet powerful enough to inspire action, whether it’s driving donations, recruiting volunteers, or raising awareness about a cause.
  • Google Analytics proficiency is key to tracking ad performance, understanding user behavior on your website, and optimizing your campaigns. This requires analytical skills to interpret data and make informed decisions.
  • Understanding ad policy will help keep your account in compliance with Google’s guidelines. The Google Ad Grant program has many requirements, and understanding these rules thoroughly will be instrumental in performance.

Here’s an example of a Google Ad for the keyword “breast cancer research,” so you can envision what your ads might look like when you develop this skill:

When you prioritize marketing as a nonprofit management skill, you can create compelling Google Ads like this one.

Paid advertising can transform your outreach efforts when backed by the necessary skills. Best of all, there are plenty of Google Ad training resources available, or you can always turn to a professional advertising agency that already has these skills.

Nonprofit Management Skill #2: Fundraising

Fundraising directly influences your organization’s capacity to fulfill its mission by funding mission-critical programs and operations. Increasing your fundraising capacity also allows you to host larger events, advertise your cause, and partake in other growth-related activities that incur costs. That makes fundraising a vital skill for any nonprofit professional.

Tips for Improving Your Fundraising Skills

Fundraising is more than just asking for donations; it encompasses a multifaceted skill set. To grow your impact and ensure financial sustainability, consider the following tips to secure the resources your cause needs: 

  • Focus on corporate giving. Engage with local companies, and learn how to use tools like matching gift software to find corporate giving opportunities. You should practice identifying and engaging businesses with shared values and presenting tailored partnership opportunities that offer mutual benefits.
  • Diversify funding sources. Seek out diverse funding sources, like sponsorships, Google Ad Grants, in-kind gifts, and crowdfunding campaigns, to increase your budget. Learning how to secure various revenue sources enables you to avoid relying too heavily on individual donations.
  • Attend fundraising workshops and read blogs. Continuously improve skills by reading educational nonprofit blogs and participating in fundraising workshops, webinars, and conferences. You’ll stay ahead of the latest trends, tools, and techniques in nonprofit fundraising.

From learning about matching gifts to following fundraising trends, focusing on these areas can ensure that your team has the resources needed to advance your organization’s mission.

Nonprofit Management Skill #3: Public Speaking

An astounding 75% of people fear public speaking. For many, this fear is linked to the idea that the audience is judging the speaker’s words and presence as a leader. 

Although you might fear public speaking, it’s an essential skill for communicating your organization’s mission and vision. 

Whether you’re speaking up in an internal meeting among colleagues or presenting to an auditorium full of strangers, public speaking abilities play a key role. Effective public speaking skills allow you to articulate your organization’s mission, your community’s needs, your plans to achieve your mission, and ways supporters can get involved. 

Tips for Improving Your Public Speaking Skills

Practice is the best way to overcome your fear of public speaking and improve your presentation skills. The following ideas provide practice opportunities to strengthen your abilities:

  • Take an educational course on public speaking. Look for a nonprofit-specific course that covers tips for public speaking opportunities. Then, practice what you learn. Little tricks like avoiding filler words and making eye contact with your audience can make a huge difference in your public speaking abilities.
  • Create regular, low-stakes practice opportunities. Try hosting a weekly public speaking activity at your organization, allowing staff members to stand up and talk about topics that are intriguing to them. Not only will you learn about your staff members’ hobbies and interests, but you’ll also be able to provide feedback to improve their public speaking skills. 
  • Ask for feedback regarding your presentation skills. No matter how high or low the stakes are, ask for feedback from someone you trust after each presentation you give. Record this feedback so you can track your progress with public speaking. 

For many of us, online conferencing tools are commonplace now. Whether you’re meeting in person or virtually, you must be fully prepared! Practice public speaking both in person and online so that you develop skills for both platforms. 

For instance, look at your audience in person. When presenting virtually, you can lean more heavily on a slideshow presentation but should practice using digital tools to answer questions.

Nonprofit Management Skill #4: Interpersonal Communications

Along the same line of public speaking, interpersonal communication skills are essential for motivating staff members, exchanging ideas with board members, discussing issues with stakeholders, and connecting with supporters. 

Communicating authentically and empathetically enables more meaningful relationships with those closest to your cause.

Tips for Improving Your Interpersonal Skills

Here are a few areas of nonprofit interpersonal communication in which professionals should develop skills: 

  • Conversation skills. As a leader at your organization, you’ll regularly talk to different people regarding your campaigns, projects, and programs. Strive to make everyone comfortable to maximize these discussions. 
  • Know your audience before a conversation. Effective communication requires underlying knowledge about your audience, why you’re speaking with them, and when you will reach out. Identify all of these elements for each message or discussion. Doing so will help create impactful messages and build relationships.
  • Practice teamwork. Working in the nonprofit sector requires you to band together with other motivated individuals excited to create change and adapt to unforeseen circumstances, like frequent changes in government policies. Learn to be a reliable team member whom your teammates trust to deliver projects on time.

Educational courses can help you develop interpersonal skills, giving you the tools you need to have meaningful conversations. However, practice is what will help your communication skills thrive!

Nonprofit Management Skill #5: Relationship-Building

One of the most vital nonprofit management skills to develop is relationship-building. When you can build relationships with supporters and sponsors, you’ll create a solid foundation of support.

Relationship-building is the backbone of supporter and employee retention. Instead of constantly facing expensive turnover for your organization’s fundraising efforts, you can retain your supporters, build relationships, and increase each contributor’s lifetime value. 

Tips to Improve Your Relationship-Building Skills

Interpersonal communication skills heavily influence your relationship-building skills. Your ability to connect with supporters and show them their support will transform their relationship with your cause.

Be sure you can effectively: 

  • Mingle and network when appropriate. Look for opportunities to start conversations with your supporters and stakeholders. For instance, events provide natural opportunities to create personal connections. 
  • Personalize conversations. Whether you’re having a face-to-face conversation or writing an email, each message should contain personal information to show recipients they matter personally to your organization. Make sure you know how to use CRMs like Salesforce to find this information and segment communications. Address them by name, mention past interactions, and reference their interests when appropriate.  
  • Show appreciation. When someone supports your organization and feels strongly about your mission, they’ll help by donating, volunteering, or attending an event to learn more. These supporters feel good about contributing but even better when they’re recognized, so say thank you with a phone call or a handwritten thank-you letter!

By building relationships with supporters and stakeholders, you build trust in your organization. This trust is essential for raising funds, growing support, and increasing your presence in your community. In other words, don’t overlook this vital nonprofit management skill!

Nonprofit Management Skill #6: Strategic Planning

It’s one thing to develop a vision for your organization and another to develop a plan to make that vision a reality. You should visualize your organization’s future and break down the specific steps to get there.

When you craft your strategic plan, consider the skills of each person at your organization. Then, you can determine who can tackle which projects and create a timeline for making your mission possible.

Tips to Improve Your Strategic Planning Skills

Improving strategic planning skills enables you to set clear goals, allocate resources, and adapt to changing environments. Try these strategies to strengthen your strategic planning abilities:

  • Analyze the personnel at your organization. Knowing your staff members will help you determine who’s available to take on various projects and how their skills will benefit that particular project.
  • Understand what goes into each project. Understanding what resources, time, and skills go into planning an event or completing a project will help you determine who can accomplish various tasks in your strategic plan. 
  • Determine achievable goals. You should be able to create success metrics to determine if each project in your strategic plan has been successfully completed. For instance, you might determine that your shelter’s adoption event is successful when 30 animals have been adopted. Choosing aspirational yet realistic goals is a craft that the best nonprofit leaders learn with time.

Your nonprofit’s strategic plan isn’t a one-and-done document. Rather, check this resource regularly to stay on track and hold yourself accountable. 

To create a well-designed strategic plan, you’ll need background knowledge about how your nonprofit and the sector operate. Obtaining certification or taking courses to develop this background knowledge is crucial for writing an effective plan.

Develop the nonprofit management skills you need by enrolling to become a CNP.

Nonprofit Management Skill #7: Delegation

Delegation means transferring the responsibility of a task from one person to another. Growing as an organization requires delegating some aspects of leadership down the chain of command. As your responsibilities grow, this can free up your time and provide growth opportunities to other team members.

Tips to Improve Your Delegation Skills

If you’ve never delegated a task to someone, you’ll want to follow this process:

To practice delegation as a nonprofit management skill, follow these steps, written below.

  1. Determine what projects and activities can be delegated. If you’re short on time, try listing the activities you’re involved in. Then, consider which activities you can pass off to another member of your organization.
  2. Identify the best person to take on the activity being delegated. Those who have expressed interest are usually the best choice because they’re already motivated to complete the task. If no one expresses interest, choose someone who has shown an aptitude for the skills required to complete the task. 
  3. Define what’s expected of the individual during the delegation process. Think through each of the steps needed to complete the activity. Then, write down those steps to give your staff member detailed instructions. 
  4. Create success metrics for the project. Consider what would define success for the activity you’re delegating. Then, share relevant metrics with the new task owner, providing them with a goal. 

Following this model will allow you to identify which team members are best suited for each responsibility and give them the proper tools for success. By developing this nonprofit management skill, you can help staff members grow, take on new projects yourself, and make existing projects even more efficient.

An Example of Delegation

Let’s say you want to delegate the responsibility of hosting a pet adoption event for an animal shelter. Using the delegation model described above, here’s how that might look:

  1. You have other event planning responsibilities. After reviewing your other tasks, you determine that since this one is pretty well established, it’s the best project to delegate down the personnel hierarchy. 
  2. You decide to delegate the project to Jenna. She has attended and volunteered at this event for your organization for the last three years. Plus, she’s asked for greater responsibilities in event planning activities. 
  3. You provide guidance for Jenna to follow. When you’re planning the event, you know that you take several specific steps, so you write down the following for Jenna to review:
    1. Set goals for the event, usually a specific number of animals to be adopted, a certain number of attendees, and fundraising revenue. 
    2. Call and book the event venue well in advance. 
    3. Determine the event’s theme and relevant decor.
    4. Promote the event by sending emails and invitations to past and prospective donors, volunteers, and sponsors. 
  4. You set a goal to determine when this is successfully delegated. You determine that the metric that defines success for this delegated task is when the organization reaches the number of animals adopted. 

Use this example as a guide when practicing this nonprofit management skill. By choosing the right person to take over a project at your organization, you may even find that they do it better! Your staff members might bring a new perspective to the project you give them.

Nonprofit Management Skill #8: Budget Allocation

Nonprofits have to accomplish a lot with limited resources. As a nonprofit professional, you’re constantly challenged to do more with less. Each day, you gain experience in resource-constrained environments. When you take on a leadership role, effective allocation and intentional use of resources will help you grow and sustain your nonprofit. 

While some professionals might assume it’s the accounting team’s responsibility to budget and allocate resources, including your leadership in budgeting decisions ensures everyone agrees on how to allocate funds.

Tips to Improve Your Budgeting Skills

When you don’t proactively develop budgeting skills, your budget allocation will likely be off-center, leading to greater expenses. To combat this and develop this important nonprofit management skill, learn how to:

  • Expand your budget with new funding opportunities. For example, Getting Attention’s Google Ad Grant application guide explains that Google’s program “supplies eligible organizations with $10,000 in Google Ad credits every month to put toward driving traffic to their websites’ most important content.” This free funding allows you to increase digital conversions and strengthen your online presence. Expand your budget by leveraging these grants, online donations, offline contributions, individual gifts, events contributions, and corporate giving.

An illustration of a piggy bank divided into different types of nonprofit funding sources

  • Determine available resources and tie funds to specific initiatives. Record all resources in your accounting system. This ensures you will know which funds are restricted and which can be allocated to areas in demand. For instance, the Google Ad Grant is restricted to digital advertising projects. Be sure to tie allocated resources to specific initiatives. Even for overhead expenses, you should still be able to discuss how that investment will help your organization run more efficiently.
  • Check your budget regularly. Your budget evolves as your organization grows, so check on your budgeted resources monthly to make sure you’re on track. Your nonprofit’s technology may offer automated reports to simplify tracking.

While you might work with an accountant or bookkeeper to help allocate your resources, being able to budget and allocate your funds will make it easier to prioritize initiatives and make realistic operational decisions when time is short.

Nonprofit Management Skill #9: Problem-Solving

While we all wish nonprofit management could always be smooth sailing, problems can and do arise. Successful leaders take these issues in stride, react rationally, and determine solutions. 

After a while, you’ll learn how to avoid repeating the problems you’ve already encountered, constantly decreasing their prevalence at your organization. If problems occur too frequently, there may be some deeper issues to address. 

However, even if you’re not currently encountering issues, you can flex your problem-solving muscles by creating contingency plans to prepare for the worst in various hypothetical situations.

Tips to Improve Your Problem-Solving Skills

As with any nonprofit management skill, nothing beats real-world practice. Whether creating a contingency plan or reacting to an emergency, follow these steps to practice problem-solving: 

  • Identify and define the problem. Identify the problem and define why it’s an issue. What does it cost the organization? What are the risks involved? When you identify these issues, write them down so that you know how to react if they come up again. 
  • Determine potential solutions and choose the best one. Don’t jump into the first solution that pops into your head. After considering the entire issue, list all possible solutions. The best one will solve the current situation and build lasting solutions rather than temporary fixes. 
  • Look for lessons learned. After implementing the solution, note any takeaways or lessons learned that you can keep in mind to prevent this type of issue from occurring again. 

Problem-solving can be stressful, but issues occur in every organization. Allow yourself to slow down, analyze an issue, and determine the best path forward to make sure your resolutions fix current issues and resolve potential future problems. 

How We Help Develop Nonprofit Management Skills

Here at The Nonprofit Leadership Alliance, we pride ourselves on providing educational resources that nonprofit professionals need to grow. By sharing learning opportunities centered on sector-specific skills, we’ve helped over 12,500 professionals become certified in the field.

While several professional development opportunities can help grow these skills, consider becoming certified in the nonprofit sector to become a well-rounded leader. The Nonprofit Leadership Alliance offers a credential for nonprofit leaders to learn more about the sector and attain the skills necessary to manage their organizations.

The Certified Nonprofit Professional (CNP) credential is the only nationally recognized credential in nonprofit management that provides learning and real-world experience. Our program makes you seven times more likely to be a leader at your organization.

This certification allows you to develop your leadership and management skills and provides context about the nonprofit sector that can help you make decisions and continue to learn as new situations arise.

Wrapping Up

Developing nonprofit management skills is essential for creating new leaders and growing your cause’s impact. This guide is only the beginning of professional growth, though. Once you know what skills will be most helpful to develop, start training your team and helping them grow into influential leaders.

If you’re curious about becoming a CNP or how you can develop your nonprofit management skills, check out the following resources:

Develop your nonprofit management skills by enrolling to become a CNP!