From marketing and communications duties to human resources and accounting tasks, a typical nonprofit employee constantly applies various tools and skill sets and covers a variety of roles–sometimes, daily! It’s essential that nonprofit boards and managers engage with their employees and help shape their career path by offering opportunities for professional development. It not only benefits the employee, but the organization.


In Why Employee Development Is Important, Neglected And Can Cost You Talent, Victor Lipman and Forbes both examine common reasons given for neglecting professional development.


1. “Here and Now” Mentality

When working in the sector, we often look at what we need to complete today or this week rather than items further down the line. Urgency and deadlines; poor planning and a lack of a perspective including long-term outcomes all-too-often take precedent. Step back and list your cause’s goals for 1,2, and 3 years from today. Now consider how to get there. Keep this list and roadmap handy and refer to it frequently.


2. Lack of Follow Through

Development exercises, such as employee retreats and seminars, are excellent tools for any nonprofit organizations. However, employees sometimes leave the seminar happy they completed the task but lack the benefits of follow through or support for information gained. Don’t leave what was learned at the door. As soon as possible, schedule a de-briefing to share what was learned with the rest of the team and discuss ways to implement that will help attain those goals set in #1.


3. Lack of Time

Employees in nonprofits may say there is just not enough time. Simple solution: Make it a priority within your organization and put it on the calendar. If it’s not on calendar there will never seem to be a time for it.


Professional development planning does not have to be costly or elaborate. It can be as simple as having one-on-one time with your employees. Schedule time to recognize their skills and assist with any needs they may have.


In 52 Free Development Opportunities for Nonprofit Staff, The Bridgespan Group examines possible on-the-job development opportunities with these tips to assist with employee development.

  • Make it a priority for all staff members to participate in monthly staff meetings.
  • Consider having employees manage junior staffers of interns and volunteers.
  • Provide short trainings and team building activities during the monthly meeting
  • Provide written development material to all employees
  • Develop projects that coordinate all members of the organization


Employees naturally want to advance and gain skills. Assist your employees by helping them become more versatile and valuable to a company. Appreciating and supporting your employees will help both your organization and employee advance.


For more information on employee engagement and professional development, check out our Third Sector Today posts:

Why Employee Evaluations Matter

7 Reality Checkpoints for Your Nonprofit Board

What would you add to this list or have you found to be successful for your organization? We’d love to hear from you!