Professional development is key to nonprofit success

July 29, 2013

Professional development is key to nonprofit success

Having a dedicated, skilled and energetic staff is imperative to the success of every nonprofit. A recent study spearheaded by Heather Carpenter, assistant professor in the School of Public, Nonprofit and Health Administration at Grand Valley State University, revealed professional development and investing in the workforce can help organizations keep talented employees around for years to come.

Staff members want to continue to add to skill sets
Nonprofits with board members, IT professionals and skilled communicators should create a culture with their staff that they know they are valued in the organization. However, the "2013 Nonprofits Needs Assessment Report," funded by the Johnson Center for Philanthropy, showed more than one-quarter of entities evaluated reserve only about 1 percent of their total budget for professional development, while about 13 percent of subjects allot 5 percent of their funds to improving the skills of their employees. Nonprofits that want a happier team need to allocate more of their budget to ensuring employee satisfaction.

"Nonprofit and philanthropic employers are recognizing that in order to reduce employee burnout and turnover as well as maintain positive employee morale, they must provide professional development opportunities to their staff," the study stated. "These opportunities can take place inside or outside of the organization. Wherever the professional development takes place, it provides many positive benefits to employees, volunteers and organizations."

Organizations begin to do more for their staff
Many nonprofits are understaffed and rely on their employees and board members to shoulder a heavy load. After working long hours to meet tough demands, organizations are beginning to look for ways to enrich the skills of their team. The 138 Michigan-based organizations surveyed reported using the Internet and the Johnson Center for Philanthropy as their top outlets for professional development resources.

"They're going to the Internet first for professional development and then they use professional associations and a mixture of external and internal resources," Carpenter told MiBiz. She stressed how nonprofits only use a small percentage of their budgets to improve their skills of their employees, which could hurt employer/employee relationships.

The study stated 73 percent of respondents offered professional training to their staff and 61 percent did so for their board members. By shifting some expenses around and realigning budgets, nonprofits can invest even more in their staff.

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