Become a CNP to develop your nonprofit management skills.

As a nonprofit professional, you understand that investing in your staff is the best way to grow and develop your organization. After all, these changemakers are on the ground floor pushing initiatives forward.

Whether leaders are born or can be taught to lead has long been debated. 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.

Here at The Nonprofit Leadership Alliance, we pride ourselves on providing educational resources that nonprofit professionals need to grow professionally. We’ve helped over 12,000 professionals become certified in the field by sharing learning opportunities centered on sector-specific skills.

To help you grow into a modern leader, we’ll cover some of the common nonprofit management skills you can (and should) develop at your own organization. We’ll discuss the following skills and advice to improve those skills:

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

Before training your team, invest in yourself first. Getting certified in the nonprofit sector makes it seven times more likely that nonprofit professionals will 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. 

Let’s dive into the vital nonprofit management skills professionals like you should learn to enhance your career.

Marketing is an essential nonprofit management skill every professional needs.

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 effectively inspires prospects to get involved in your work.

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 and updating your approach will help you stay connected 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 much 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. Know that certain channels, like Google Ads, require you to acquire additional skills, such as keyword research capabilities. 
  • Adapt your written communications. Your written communications are used to reach your supporters, deliberate with colleagues, appeal to grant funders, and discuss your goals with sponsors. Adapting your written communication strategies will help you impact different audiences every time.
  • 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.

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.

While a major fear for many individuals, public speaking is an essential nonprofit management skill for professionals.

Nonprofit Management Skill #2: Public Speaking

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

Although you might count yourself among the percentage of people who fear public speaking, it’s an essential skill required for communicating your organization’s mission and vision. 

Whether you’re speaking up in an internal meeting among your colleagues or giving a presentation 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 how your 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 best practices. Look for a nonprofit-specific course that covers tips and tricks for public speaking opportunities. Then, practice what you learn. Little tips and 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 your staff members to stand up and talk about topics that are intriguing and important 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 over time. 

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, you’ll want to keep looking up and surveying 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.

Interpersonal communication is an essential nonprofit management skill for professionals to interact with staff members and supporters.

Nonprofit Management Skill #3: Interpersonal Communications

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

Communicating authentically and empathetically will allow you to develop meaningful relationships with those closest to your cause.

Tips for Improving Your Interpersonal Skills

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

  • Conversation skills. As a leader at your organization, you’ll regularly talk to different people regarding your campaigns, projects, and programs. Evaluate the flow of your conversation to make everyone as comfortable as possible and get more out of these discussions. 
  • Know who your audience is before a conversation. Effective communication requires some underlying knowledge about your audience, why you’re speaking with them, and when you will reach out to converse with them. Be sure to identify all of these elements for each message or discussion. Doing so will help create impactful messages and build relationships. 
  • 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!

One of the nonprofit management skills that nonprofit professionals sometimes overlook is the ability to build relationships.

Nonprofit Management Skill #4: 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 sustainable funding opportunities and a solid foundation of support for your organization. 

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 the lifetime value of each contributor. 

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 is vital 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 with various people at your organization. 
  • Personalize conversations. Whether you’re having a face-to-face conversation or writing an email, each one of your outreach messages should contain personal information to show recipients that they’re unique and matter personally to your organization. Address them by name, mention historical interactions with your organization, and reference their interests when appropriate.  
  • Show appreciation for support. When someone takes notice of your organization and feels strongly about your mission, they’ll reach out to help by donating, volunteering, or attending an event to learn more. These supporters feel good about contributing to your cause but even better when their efforts are recognized. So be sure to say thank you, whether that’s with a personal phone call or a handwritten thank-you letter!

By building relationships with your supporters and stakeholders, you build their 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!

Strategic planning is a nonprofit management skill that helps organizations implement ambitious plans.

Nonprofit Management Skill #5: Strategic Planning

It’s one thing to develop a vision for your organization. However, developing a plan to make that vision possible is another. 

Strategic plans discuss more than the philanthropic initiatives that you want to achieve. Not only should you visualize your organization’s future, but you also need to break down the specific steps that will get you there.

When you craft your plan, dive deep into the skills and talents 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

To create impactful strategic plans, you should develop nonprofit management skills to identify the path to achieving a goal. For instance, you’ll need to develop the expertise necessary to: 

  • Analyze the personnel at your organization. Relationships with your staff members will help you determine who’s available to take on various projects and how their skills will make a difference in 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 the goals and objectives that you want to achieve. 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 the adoption event for a dog shelter 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. You should 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 as a whole operates. Obtaining certification or taking courses to help you develop this background knowledge is crucial for writing an effective plan.

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

To grow your organization, you’ll need to learn the nonprofit management skill of delegation.

Nonprofit Management Skill #6: Delegation

Delegation simply 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 organization members. 

Tips to Improve Your Delegation Skills

If you’ve never delegated a task to someone, there’s a process you’ll want to follow. To master this skill, remember these key steps when delegating a task:

  • Determine exactly what projects and activities can be delegated. If you’ve found yourself short on time, try listing the activities you’re involved in. Then, consider which of these activities you can pass off to another member of your organization. 
  • Identify the best person to take on the activity being delegated. Those who have expressed interest in the activity are usually the best choice because they’re already motivated to complete the task and do it well. If no one expresses interest, choose someone who has shown an aptitude for the skills required to complete the task. 
  • 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 each of these steps, getting as specific as possible so that your staff member has detailed instructions to get started. 
  • Come up with success metrics for the project. Consider what would define success for the activity you’re delegating. Then, express that success metric to the new task owner, providing them with a goal to shoot for. 

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.

At any organization, leaders should be effective delegators. By developing this nonprofit management skill, you’ll find that you can help your 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 an idea of what that might look like:

  1. You have other event planning responsibilities at your organization. You have competing priorities. 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 your organization’s 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, choosing the time and space well in advance. 
    3. Determine the event’s theme and the decor that will represent that theme.
    4. Promote the event by sending emails, invitations, and flyers to past and prospective donors and interested parties. 
  4. You set a goal to determine when this is successfully delegated. Finally, you determine that the metric that defines success for this delegation is when the organization reaches or surpasses 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, making it better than when you did it yourself. 

 Budget allocation is a nonprofit management skill that allows you to handle your organization’s resources better.

Nonprofit Management Skill #7: Budget Allocation

Nonprofits frequently have to accomplish a lot with limited resources. As an established nonprofit professional, you understand 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. This can lead to more expenses both now and down the line. To combat this and develop this important nonprofit management skill, you will need to learn how to:

  • Determine the resources at your disposal. Make sure you record all resources properly in your accounting system. Doing so ensures you will know which funds are unrestricted and available at your disposal.
  • Look out for new funding opportunities. To expand your budget, keep an eye peeled for new funding opportunities. For example, Getting Attention’s Google Ad Grant application guide explains that Google’s program “supplies eligible nonprofits 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. Keeping an eye out for emerging opportunities like this will allow you to expand your budget and allocate funds to the areas of your mission that need it the most.
  • Align budgeted resources with philanthropic initiatives. Determine which funds are restricted to various projects and what is free to allocate according to the highest demand. For instance, the Google Ad Grant is restricted to digital advertising projects. Then, tie back all of the resources you allocate to specific initiatives. Even when you allocate resources to overhead expenses, you should still be able to discuss how that investment will help your organization run more efficiently.
  • Check your budget regularly to ensure everything is on track. Just like your strategic plan isn’t complete after you’ve written it, your budget also evolves as your organization grows. Because of this, keep an eye on your budgeted resources. Check in monthly to make sure you’re on track. 

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.

Problem-solving is an essential nonprofit management skill that allows you to react to various situations.

Nonprofit Management Skill #8: Problem-Solving

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

Developing problem-solving skills requires having problems. After a while, you’ll learn how to avoid repeating the problems you’ve already encountered, constantly decreasing their prevalence at your organization. If you find that problems are occurring too frequently, there may be some deeper issues to address. 

However, even if you’re not encountering any current 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 situation at your organization, follow these steps to practice problem-solving effectively: 

  • Identify and define the problem. Identify the problem at hand 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 it comes up again. 
  • Determine potential solutions. After you’ve considered the issue in its entirety, weigh potential solutions. Don’t jump into the first solution that pops into your head. Instead, list all possible solutions that could solve the problem. 
  • Choose the best solution. Ultimately, the best solutions will solve the current situation and build lasting solutions rather than temporary fixes. 
  • Look for lessons learned. After the solution has been implemented, reflect on what’s happened. Take note of any takeaways or lessons learned that you can keep in mind to prevent this type of issue from occurring again in the future. 

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. 

Let’s wrap up with additional resources to help you expand your nonprofit management skills.

Wrapping Up

Developing nonprofit management skills is essential for creating new leaders at your organization 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, get to work training your team and helping them grow into influential leaders.

While you can explore several professional development opportunities to develop 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. 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. 

If you’re curious about becoming a Certified Nonprofit Professional (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!