4 Internet Competencies You Need for a Career in Nonprofit

Anthony Sicola- 10.13.2009 Follow me on Twitter

Have you been thinking about breaking into the nonprofit sector from the for-profit sector but don’t know how to go about it?  Are you looking for strategies to stand out from the competition?  Are you exploring new nonprofit options? October 2009 is the inaugural year for Nonprofit Career Month, a project of Idealist.org, designed to promote the number and diversity of career opportunities in the nonprofit sector.


I checked out NCM’s site today as well as their blog, which is packed with tips, tricks and strategies to make your search for a nonprofit career more successful, help dispel common myths about working in nonprofits and allow currently aspiring nonprofit professionals to share expertise.


To me, one of the most important factors I can think of for nonprofits looking for new employees is their familiarity with Internet tools. New nonprofit professionals must know how to use Internet-based tools to engage digital natives and help achieve their organization’s mission. I thought I would share (what I think are) the top four Internet competencies for a successful career in the nonprofit sector:

Encourage Conversation and Communication

  • Know how to engage supporters and donors via social media channels such as Twitter®, Facebook®, Flickr®, YouTube®, blogs and other online communities by discussing, listening and inquiring and responding.
  • Maintain relationships with supporters through newsletters and email marketing campaigns that highlight donors, not your organization.

Be a Community Builder

  • Use social media channels to share news, advocacy initiatives and to recruit new employees and volunteers.
  • Gather feedback, opinions and criticism about your nonprofit or your programming and make changes based on that feedback.
  • Understand that people come together around causes they believe in and engagement in your mission, not simply because you build a website or online community.

Understand the Importance of Relationship Management Tools

  • Know how to track donors through Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) software such as Blackbaud Sphere™ or Blackbaud NetCommunity™.
  • Be familiar with Content Management Systems (CMS) to help increase website efficiency and effectiveness.
  • Understand event management software such as Friends Asking Friends® and how to use it to engage event participants.

Use Data Effectively

  • Analyze and report on gathered business intelligence to determine the worth and merit of programs, products or campaigns.
  • Use analytics to measure website effectiveness, optimize your websites for search engines and use adwords to drive traffic to your site to boost pageviews.
  • Report to donors and supporters about your efforts

Real World Example:

Many nonprofits are excelling in these competencies, but if I had to choose one for the purpose of an example, I would point you to the Lance Armstrong Foundation who is doing a stellar job with these competencies.  Let's break it out:

  1. Encourage Conversation and Communication:
  2. Be a Community Builder
    • Lance Armstong, Doug Ulman and many more LAF staff use social media channels to spread breaking news, talk about events, share links and gather feedback about the organization which they use to make the organization better.  Their visibility on these channels brings people together and drives traffic back to the LIVESTRONG website. 
  3. Understand the Inportance of Realtionship Management Tools
    • LAF uses Blackbaud tools to manage their web properties, email marketing campaigns, and to manage event participants for their LIVESTRONG Challenge events.
  4. Use Data Effectively
    • LAF does a great job pulling data from all of their tools to produce reports that engage and inspire donors.  See an example of LAF's 2008 Annual report.

So what do you think? Is this a pretty good list? Is there anything I’m missing? What do you think are critical Internet competencies for new nonprofit professionals? Leave a comment and let me know!


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