Talent Development

In the final analysis, the only thing your nonprofit has to offer your clients, donors, and community is the talent of your people. They design your programs, raise funds, and provide services. They are at the heart of your nonprofit’s sustainability, effectiveness, success, and your mission’s relevance.

Are you doing enough to nurture that talent?

The response of most nonprofit boards is that “We are doing all we can afford to do.” If talent is the key ingredient to success and change is constantly demanding new skills and new ideas, talent development should be the highest priority expense.

Your investment in talent tells your employees they are valued. You want them to grow, contribute, and flourish. You know they are key to your nonprofit’s success. Those are easy things to say and most boards do say that to their staff. When the staff sees funding talent development put into practice, it makes the board’s sincerity tangible.

When the board postpones talent development until next year because of a tight budget, it is usually an unfulfillable commitment. The budget is tight because of a new challenge the nonprofit is facing. Every new challenge needs a new way of thinking, new skills, and new ideas. The trial and error approach to finding the right response to a new challenge makes resolution slow and uncertain, if it works at all. Therefore, the recovery may only restore the nonprofit to it previous level of sustainability while the world has moved on. As a result, sustainability will be below where it should be. If so, the budget will be too tight to fund any talent development next year. It is better to intensify the investment in talent and focus on ensuring the response to the challenge provides a new, much higher level of sustainability.

Your donors want more than excellence. They want your clients to reach higher levels of success each year and they want more clients to achieve success each year. The only way to consistently fulfill your donors’ expectations is to have a growing talent pool. While every donor knows that, it is good to remind them.

Next Step:

Make talent development a priority

Promote what your talent can do and will do so that your supporters will enthusiastically fund your talent development needs

Hold your board personnel committee accountable for the successful development of the staff’s talent

Talent development needs an advocate in every board meeting. That is the role of the personnel committee. Advocating on behalf of talent development is important while the budget is being developed. It is equally important to have an advocate when a new challenge or misstep is discovered. Since it is rare that a misstep or challenge arises because of negligence or inattention, better talent development is both the cure and the prevention.

Frequently, executives notice the need for talent development before it arises. Equally frequently, they miss the signs because they are so involved in immediate issues they are unable to spend time looking ahead. More talent (people and skills) will help but that depends on increased resources, which depends on an advocate at budget time. The board has the diversity of talent that can help predict needs but only if they look into the future and have a plan

If you want your mission to remain relevant and valuable to your supporters, clients, and community, invest in talent development.

Take It Further:

Invest in your board’s talent and the talent of other volunteers

Have a talent plan for each staff member and volunteer

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