Why You Should Invest in Staff Development for Your Nonprofit

May 7, 2021

No matter what type of nonprofit you manage, your staff is the backbone of the organization. Investing in staff development is an investment into the employee, the company, and the people you serve.

What is a nonprofit?

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You are probably thinking, seriously? Yes, let’s define it. We love the definition from councilofnonprofits.org.

Charitable nonprofits embody the best of America. They provide a way for people to work together for the common good, transforming shared beliefs and hopes into action. They give shape to our boldest dreams, highest ideals, and noblest causes. America’s 1.3 million charitable nonprofits feed, heal, shelter, educate, inspire, enlighten, and nurture people of every age, gender, race, and socioeconomic status, from coast to coast, border to border, and beyond. They foster civic engagement and leadership, drive economic growth, and strengthen the fabric of our communities. Every single day. 

Many people misunderstand what a nonprofit is, and the financial and staffing challenges nonprofits face in today’s COVID environment. The staff that keeps a nonprofit performing its initiatives in our community is critical, and retention is essential.

Who is considered staff in a nonprofit organization?

Staff is defined as all members of the organization up to and including the Executive Director. Further, the only people not considered staff are the interns, volunteers, and board members.

Why you should invest in staff development for your nonprofit

Nonprofits experience higher turnover because individuals tend to use the positions as a stepping stone when building their careers. Challenges include lower pay scales and demanding work environments. Showing a path to success through developing your team can increase retention and employee performance.

Why is staff development so important?

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Staff development programs and opportunities create a pathway to succession and demonstrate the commitment to investing in its employees and staff throughout the organization. Staff development improves retention, productivity, and opportunities for successful recruitment.

 What are examples of staff development programs?

Many nonprofits struggle with the conflict between the desire to invest in their staff with the lack of funds to do so correctly. Successful nonprofit organizations engage with their staff and encourage them to capitalize on development opportunities.

  • Prioritize their individual goals for the position, the agency’s overall goals, and how they see themselves as a part of the puzzle.
  • On-the-job training and training them in increments for the following position available shows them a pathway to growth and advancement.
  • Reward them for learning something new.
  • Talk to them about career paths and ladders. Ensure these are clear and created for them to succeed and know what the direction is. Allow them to see the next step in their career and how you invest in their future with the nonprofit.
  • Development programs need to be clear and attainable, or the result may be increased turnover.
  • Develop organizational charts to show them how they can clearly move within the organization.
  • Allow staff members to manage a part of your budget and share financial information such as the P&L and the budget for their department.

What staff development tools are commonly used?

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The tools vary depending on the size and structure of the organization. We commonly discuss four tools when assisting our nonprofit clients with staff development:

  1. Job rotations. Continue to offer new opportunities through training in other departments and job functions.
  2. Coaching and mentoring. This is a different role from “management.” Encourage mentoring of new employees or volunteers and create a leadership opportunity within their silo.
  3. Committee work. Encourage staff to sit in on and become a part of committees. This supports direct contact with the board and the community.
  4. External development. Have the staff attend external conferences accompanying a board member or the CEO.

Are you ready to plan your staff development program?

Staff development in nonprofit organizations can be challenging when “do more with less” is a consistent theme. Your staff is a part of your future, not just today. We understand that the day-to-day pressures feel overwhelming, but investing in your team and allowing them to see a future with the organization will remove many of the challenges nonprofits face.

The tips and suggestions within will hopefully encourage and assist you in reviewing your staff development programs. If you do not have a program, contact us, and we can help.

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