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Developing Nonprofit Leaders through Skills-Based Volunteering

By Common Impact | October 9, 2018

Tool Spotlight: Choosing a Nonprofit Project Lead

Common Impact is exploring the skill sharing component of The Knitting Factor, as a driver for two-way talent exchange between corporate volunteers and nonprofit professionals. When our partners recognize the knowledge and expertise that both sides bring to the table, it creates an opportunity for real talent development and long-term, sustainable partnerships.

Why is the two-way exchange so important? Because most of the social sector experiences a capacity gap, which is often due to a lack of funding towards critical back-office functions that enable organizations to run effectively.  One area that severely lacks funding and investment in the nonprofit sector is talent and leadership development.  Securing and developing the nonprofit sector’s core talent is a significant challenge, often resulting from a lack of funding for core mission support. Many organizations invest in program staff to run the day-to-day activities, but don’t focus on cultivating management and leadership. Nonprofits often lose their next generation of talent because they can’t pay them competitive salaries or provide significant growth and development opportunities.

At Common Impact, we’ve seen first-hand how leveraging skills-based volunteering to create intentional and thoughtful development opportunities for nonprofit staff can solve this challenge. Skilled volunteerism can be a great way to invest in talent, without having to seek the funding for it. How does this all work in practice? Let’s say you are getting ready to kick off a skills-based project with your corporate volunteers, but you aren’t sure who would serve as a good project lead. You might be inclined to consider the individual on your team who manages traditional volunteer engagements; however, it is important to keep in mind that pro bono initiatives require a different set of skills than traditional volunteer management and are often unique to the project that you’re tackling.

The team lead role – sometimes referred to as the project manager – is a great professional development opportunity for a staff member to not only deepen their skills in a specific functional area – such as marketing or technology – but also to develop project management skills, leadership skills and gain exposure to new sectors.

Check out our tips for identifying the right project leader here.