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5 Must-Have Skills for Nonprofit Professionals in 2021—and How to Gain Them

Nonprofit professionals learned a lot in 2020. From getting comfortable with working from home to taking fundraising almost entirely online, the year forced people to learn new skills in record time, despite the other challenges they were facing. It’s a testament to the incredible spirit of nonprofits, and you should be proud of yourself and your team for everything you’ve accomplished, both big and small. 

As this difficult year draws to a close, you might be looking ahead and considering the skills your team will need in 2021. While you can’t always predict what the future will hold (as 2020 proved), you can focus on developing competencies that are becoming increasingly important for nonprofit teams. 

With that in mind, here are five skills that will benefit nonprofit professionals and their organizations in 2021—and a few recommended LinkedIn Learning courses to help your team gain them. 

Skill #1: Resiliency

The COVID-19 pandemic put pressure on organizations everywhere. From increased demand for their services and programs to fundraising shortfalls as a result of canceled events, resources were often scarce and stakes were high. Nonprofit teams came through, but more challenges may be on the horizon. 

The events of 2020 highlighted the need for nonprofits to increase their organizational resiliency. Nonprofit professionals can support these efforts by building their own resiliency—learning tactics to help them thrive in the face of change, obstacles, and setbacks.

Recommended course: Enhancing Resilience. Taught by executive coach Gemma Leigh Roberts, this course covers the six pillars of resilience and how to strengthen them.

Skill #1: Resiliency

Skill #2: Empathy 

Whether they’re writing an email to potential donors requesting support during a challenging time or speaking to an employee to understand why their performance has dipped, nonprofit professionals need to be able to approach situations with a high degree of empathy to ensure those around them feel listened to, understood, and cared for. 

This soft skill will only become more important in years to come, impacting everything from employee retention to marketing effectiveness, so it’s worth enhancing your team’s empathy skills today. 

Recommended course: Communicating with Empathy. Led by communication expert Sharon Steed, this course teaches practical ways to communicate more empathetically at work and make difficult conversations more productive and less painful.

Skill #2: Empathy

Skill #3: Storytelling through video

Whether or not in-person fundraising makes a return in 2021, digital campaigns aren’t going anywhere. And one of the most powerful tools for online marketing and fundraising is video content.

Nonprofits have long used video as a medium to tell their stories, raise awareness, and drive action, so it’s likely that your team has some degree of expertise in this area already. But as you navigate an increasingly digital world, now is the perfect opportunity to enhance and refine your video storytelling skills to ensure the videos you’re producing are as impactful as possible.

Recommended course: Developing a Fundraising Video for Nonprofits. In this course, cause marketing expert Steph Belsky shares what it takes to craft compelling stories and turn them into videos that resonate.

Skill #3: Storytelling through video

Skill #4: Data analysis

In the for-profit and nonprofit worlds alike, using data to guide decisions is no longer optional. By looking at their data, nonprofits can evaluate which messages are resonating most with supporters, gain deeper insights into donor behavior, assess the impact of their services and programs, and much more. This can make it easier to stretch your budget and resources further, and identify new avenues to explore.

If your team hasn’t done much with its data to date, it’s time to brush up your data skills and dig in. While no one expects you to become an expert in data science overnight, gaining a working understanding of how to collect, clean, store, and analyze data can help you take your organization to the next level.

Recommended course: The Data Science of Nonprofit Service Organizations. Led by data scientist Barton Poulson, this course explores some ways that nonprofits can use data to solve common concerns.

Skill #4: Data analysis

Skill #5: Mindfulness

Working in the nonprofit sector can be extremely rewarding. It can also be stressful. As nonprofit professionals prepare to help their organizations navigate the challenges and opportunities that 2021 presents, gaining mindfulness skills can give them the tools they need to reduce stress and improve holistic wellness.

As they say during pre-flight safety announcements, you have to put your own oxygen mask on first before assisting others. Your team is dedicated to assisting others, but getting burned out actively holds them back from that achieving that goal. A healthy and happy team is a productive team—and a productive team can do more good in the world.

Recommended course: Mindfulness Practices. In this course, executive coach Henna Inam leads guided exercises to help expand emotional intelligence, grow self-confidence, and build stronger relationships—all while helping the brain respond better to stressful situations.

Skill #5: Mindfulness

Learn, grow, and thrive

While every nonprofit is different, this list will hopefully give you a good starting point to start planning your learning and development priorities for 2021.

If you’re interested in learning more about how LinkedIn Learning can help your team learn and grow, get in touch with our nonprofit specialists.

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