The Nonprofit Job Skills You’ll Need by 2020

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April 7, 2015; Fast Company

How many of us currently working in the nonprofit sector have the skills that will be needed in the near future? The number of jobs in the U.S. nonprofit sector grew during the 2001-2010 period. During the same period, the number of jobs in the for-profit sector declined. A recent Fast Company article examined those statistics and asked the question, “What will it take to get a nonprofit job in 2020?”

Top of the list is “data-savvy skills.” Several trends play into the increase for data-friendly skillsets. Nonprofits can now collect data faster, cheaper, and more efficiently, and measuring social impact is becoming key to telling the nonprofit’s story.

Thomas Tighe, president of Direct Relief, an international relief agency, says, “If anyone can do infographics and 15-second videos after having analyzed data and also translate the findings into low-cost activities that demonstrate results—you are desperately needed today and will be worshipped!”

The ability to apply design thinking to solving social issues is next on the list. The example shared describes influencing behavior through the design or layout of public physical spaces.

Next, nonprofit employees will need the people skills to create cross-sector partnerships with “potential supporters in an increasingly sophisticated, constantly evolving market, similar to any private commercial enterprise,” according to Jacqueline Novogratz, CEO of Acumen, a nonprofit investing in companies that focus on world poverty.

The nonprofit workforce is predicted to become even more diverse, and not only from a race or gender perspective. The ability to work and interact globally will bring a wide range of diverse backgrounds together. Also, Millennials will comprise almost half of the U.S. workforce in 2020. This generation of workers values the ability to blend social values into their daily work life to a much greater degree than those generations that came before. The emerging talent in the nonprofit work force wants a fast-paced environment, similar to that of a startup.

Fast Company gathered this info by interviewing several leaders of nonprofits on its list of the most innovative companies in the nonprofit sector. The data source has to be considered to affect the language and tone of the findings, but it appears what is being suggested is that nonprofits will need employees that have skills of analysis, presentation, and collaboration. They will need to be nimble and adaptive, able to move from task to task as needed and to work in diverse settings, etc. Stand back, folks…not much new here, except perhaps the importance of load of technology skills and the sometimes apparently insurmountable loan debt they may be carrying.

What suggestions do you have for attracting personnel into the nonprofit sector who have either specialized technology skills or high student debt?—Jeanne Allen

  • Gretchen

    As someone entering into the non-profit sector I think organizations that showcase the willingness to adopt the newer trends, whether social media or data metrics, are much more attractive to young people looking to enter the public sector. It’s great to know that the tech skills we have growing up in this age will make us more attractive to non-profits.

  • jeff

    A sure fire way for anyone in the NFP sector to guarantee they are still doing good in 2020 – check out the difference that individuals can make – – jeff

  • Viv Slack

    Working in technology and starting to build connections with others that want to do more good, i’d say one thing that non profits could do to make a big difference is just tell us what you need help with!

    I know some brilliant passionate data people, devs and analysts that want to make a greater social impact, but the most visible avenues to work are standard jobs in for profit companies, or digital marketing agencies.

    I’ve thought about setting up freelance to help non profits and social enterprises with getting better solutions, but how do we make the bridge into that world and find the organisations that need help?

  • Christopher Aiken

    This article was helpful for my upcoming interview with a national nonprofit company in Colorado Springs. The types of talent nonprofits aim to attract and retain are changing like you said not only demographically, but in values and tech-saavy skill sets. Thanks again for your post!