Oct 31 2023

Why Nonprofits Are Investing in Staff Training to Get the Most Value from Their Tech Solutions

Most nonprofits are undergoing a digital transformation. With upskilling, they can avoid a staff transformation too.

The Great Resignation may be over, but nonprofits are still feeling the pinch. Nearly three-quarters of nonprofits report job vacancies, according to a survey from the National Council of Nonprofits. With tech skills in short supply for nearly every job today, it’s clear why organizations are investing in staff technology training.

As nonprofit IT leaders invest in tech modernization solutions, they’re recognizing the importance of training staff to use the technology to optimize operations and drive the greatest impact — and they’re doing it through upskilling.

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What Is Upskilling?

With upskilling, employees gain additional training and skills so that they can better fulfill their current responsibilities. A staff member who currently works on event planning, for example, might be trained in event management software, helping them optimize their performance.

That’s not to be confused with reskilling, which is when employees learn an entirely new skill set that enables them to take on a different role. For example, if an employee’s job description is to run a mentorship program that the nonprofit then decides to eliminate, that employee could be reskilled in, say, fundraising — an entirely new role.

“You see more conversation now around skills being the currency for growth, so you can progress in a career not because of arbitrary hurdles,” Jacqui Canney, chief people officer of IT service management platform ServiceNow, told BizTech magazine earlier this year.

Given that nearly three-quarters of nonprofits have undergone or are in the middle of a digital transformation, according to the Nonprofit Technology Network, tech upskilling becomes a key component of how nonprofits can continue to fulfill their missions. The same survey reports that 65 percent of nonprofits are training existing employees in digital skills.

RELATED: Find out how one organization grew its success by training its employees.

Why Upskill Employees?

In the big picture, upskilling benefits employees by providing professional development, and it benefits the organization by incorporating an expanded skill set without needing to recruit new staff. Research indicates that one-third of the job skills that will be considered essential in 2025 are not yet regarded as crucial by organizations, demonstrating the need to invest in upskilling to stay competitive.

When employees have skills they believe are scarce, they become more invested and engaged in their organization. According to research from PwC, compared with employees who don’t consider their skills in demand, these workers are 17 percent likelier to feel satisfied with their job and 25 percent likelier to feel that their manager listens to them. Similarly, a 2021 Gallup poll shows that 71 percent of people who have received upskilling report that their overall job satisfaction has increased.

DISCOVER: Find out why upskilling is crucial to today’s workforce.

With tech upskilling in particular, employees who are not in IT services become more invested in agile technology at every level of an organization. While tech teams that actually conduct the training start out as the experts in the target technology, on-the-ground workers are the ones with the application insights that reveal how they can deploy the technology to help nonprofits better achieve their mission.


The percentage of people who report increased job satisfaction after upskilling

Source: Gallup, The American Upskilling Study: Empowering Workers for the Jobs of Tomorrow, 2021

The First Step in Upskilling the Nonprofit Workforce

Upskilling can take a variety of forms: apprenticeships, peer training, certifications, job sharing and so on. But before nonprofits can find the formula that works for them, they need to set a baseline by answering this question: What skills are most needed by the organization?

Janet Clarey, principal director of HR research and advisory services at McLean & Company, told TechTarget that the first step is to talk with principal players to understand what needs to be done. She also advised looking beyond immediate concerns to get a handle on long-term needs, setting up your nonprofit to reach its operational and strategic goals.

However a nonprofit approaches upskilling, doing so will serve the organization’s ability to fulfill its mission and serve its community — now and in the future.

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