Will technology be an ally or a competitor to nonprofit workers as the sector undergoes a digital transformation?
The dean of MIT Stephen A. Schwarzman College of Computing, Dan Huttenlocher, states that AI already plays an instrumental role in addressing the societal challenges that nonprofits hope to resolve. In fact, nonprofits like the Common Market use AI to enhance food supply chains between farmers and food banks. Meanwhile, the Himalayan Cataract Project leverages technology to gather, distribute, and use patient data among ophthalmologic health organizations.
While the advantages of technology are undeniable, many professionals may be worried that automated tools will take their responsibilities and positions. Before it's too late, make sure that you are irreplaceable in the nonprofit sector by future-proofing your career.
You may have heard the saying, "it's not what you know; it's who you know" plenty of times. Our article Mind the Gap: Best Ways to Explain Employment Gaps on Your Resume states that this old saying rings true because a professional network can help you land job opportunities, even if you have an employment gap. Connections can give insider tips about job openings, help you land a job interview, or even serve as your professional reference.
You can ensure that opportunities await you in the future by establishing a network with connections from your personal life, school, workplaces, and volunteer boards. Our resource on Professional Networking Dos and Don'ts states that you can further expand your network by looking through your LinkedIn network and introducing yourself to prospective connections. You can also make yourself known to professionals in your field by joining professional organizations and volunteer programs related to the nonprofit career path that you want to take.
Your skills may be sought-after now—but the demand for your expertise can quickly change in a few years. The digital transformation of the field can happen quickly, which is why Maryville University emphasizes that training and development are critical for employees who want to avoid stagnation in their field. These training opportunities can even future-proof nonprofit careers by teaching professionals how to think and work using updated technology and processes in the industry.
Fortunately, plenty of training and upskilling opportunities are available in nonprofit organizations. You can also access external learning opportunities by signing up for online programs or digital courses that are related to your career. A bit of self-study can also go a long way, and you can start your research through these nonprofit technology resources outlined by the Brooklyn Arts Council. The list includes TechSoup, which offers technological learning resources for nonprofit professionals, as well as Amy Sample Ward's website for those interested in evolving technologies.
Specialty skills in fundraising, donor relations, and advocacy are essential in the industry. However, you'll be more secure if you have a wide variety of transferable skill sets. Duke Haddad, a freelance instructor for Nonprofit Web Advisor, states that transferrable skills are a must now that the world is evolving at a rapid pace. General professionals with strong communication, business, and social skills can quickly adapt from one role to another as automated tools overtake certain processes. While Haddad assures that specialist skills remain critical, developing soft skills can help you score more work opportunities.
You can enhance your transferable skills using LinkedIn's online communication training courses. The professional website includes a lesson on having difficult conversations and effective listening, which can be helpful for professionals who work on the ground during tragedies. NonprofitReady.org also offers free certificate courses on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, as well as program management, which will be applicable to all aspects of nonprofit work.
General skills are crucial because they can help you adjust to in-demand roles in the present and in the future.
In fact, Philanthropy News Digest shared that the next generation of food bank staff has to resolve common internal challenges involving their contrasting values and work preferences. As more food banks embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion, you need to learn how to improve your communication and social skills to develop good working relationships with your co-workers. You also need to learn how to adjust working between the office setting and the field, now that technologies overtake work tasks.
You don't need to think of technology as competition in the nonprofit sector, especially if you know how to adjust accordingly. By preparing for the greater integration of tech in the sector, you'll remain valuable in nonprofit organizations for a long time.
Written for Impact Opportunity by River Jewel