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Skills you should build to transition to a nonprofit


Transferable or soft skills are abilities you acquire in a particular role that can be applied somewhere else. Could be your talent to communicate effectively, optimize resources, or foster partnerships. Internships, volunteer work, and even your regular everyday job can help you acquire and hone these abilities.

With that in mind, these are the most sought skills in the nonprofit world.


For-profit professionals who have demonstrated ability to influence colleagues and peers toward action (without having any authority over them) are well positioned for success in a non-for-profit organization (NFP).

Most nonprofits rely on the management team to motivate staff and volunteers, and to direct their social work skills towards a central mission, despite financial and human resource constraints, complicated community environments, and daunting social problems.

GENERAL_BECOMING A NONPROFIT STRATEGIST - Skills You Should Build to Transition to a woman_teammates_working_meeting


Financial constraints are frequently cited as the main challenge of transitioning to the nonprofit sector. Work experience in a resource-constrained environment is a key to make a successful transition.

The experience of starting up a business —staffing it, building it, creating an strategic plan— can get your foot in the door when moving to the nonprofit sector.



Make sure to explain why your abilities would be valuable to the organization, even if they are not included in the description of the specific job you are applying to.

Management experience

 For-profit managers that have worked with employees at different levels of an organization and have been responsible for their professional development are well-suited for nonprofit management’s culture and practices.

The management experience that corporate structures imprint on their administrators and officials often can be transferred to NFP scenarios. A background in finance and accounting, human resources, IT, marketing and communications, or fund development would be highly prized by nonprofits.

Many small nonprofits may not have experience hiring people with these specialties. Be ready to explain why they need you, what organizational skills you bring to the table, and specific ways you can contribute to the organization.

Organizational skills examples that are particularly well regarded among nonprofits include problem solving, strategic thinking, resource management, and coordinating and executing events.


The flexibility to engage in different ways with a variety of people is a highly valued skill in the non-profit sector. Many bridgers (for-profit professionals transitioning to the nonprofit sector) have found that their experience in both worlds has allowed them to play a mediator role between the “business” and “nonprofit” sides of a NFP organization.

GENERAL_BECOMING A NONPROFIT STRATEGIST - Skills You Should Build to Transition to a Nonprofiit_team_working_project


 The ability to manage a wide range of activities, such as finance, human resources, and communications is a critical factor in the success of bridgers.Because of their limited resources, most nonprofits cannot afford specialization. You can use this as an opportunity to contribute with your unique set of skills, while simultaneously learning and taking on new duties. Make sure to explain why your abilities would be valuable to the organization, even if they are not included in the description of the specific job you are applying to.


 When it comes to professional, managerial, or technical areas, you may find you are more knowledgeable or experienced than the person at the nonprofit who hired you, or your immediate superior. Being good at “managing up” –respecting individual talents and constraints and appreciating the value of intergenerational mentoring– is key to succeed in a NFP organization.

Much like in for-profit businesses, nonprofits employees are held accountable and must be able to work in a coordinated team environment.


[1] The Bridgespan Group. Six Skills that Transfer Well to Nonprofit Leadership Positions. Retrieved from
[2] Ristau, Stephen. 17 tips to help you make the transition from for-profit to nonprofit. Retrieved from
[3] Banerjee, Sourya (2017, May 25). Mapping Key Transferable Skills for Career Transition to Non-Profit. Retrieved from
[4] Rodríguez, Kate. What top nonprofits look for in job applicants. Retrieved from
[5] Reddy, Krishna. Organizational Skills in the Workplace: Importance & Examples. Retrieved from
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