Sustainability Practice Areas for non-profit organisational resilience: the basic skills set

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Gabrielle Ritchie, The Change Room

10th June 2016

To address the issue of what skills are required to strengthen your organisation, I have provided a table below.  The thing is, this is an ideal scenario. We know that for a start-up, or an organisation in financial straits, it is not possible to do everything and it might be one or two people (and often these are volunteers) who have to do it all!

So read on, don’t get caught up on the skills you don’t have and what you can’t do.  Rather focus on what needs to be done – and find a way of doing it. Do what you can. You can figure out the “who” as you go. Just a reminder, though: some things are non-negotiable – good ethical governance and sound financial management.

  • strategic thinking
  • financial oversight
  • ethical practice and adherence to The Independent Code
  • representing the organisation in broader stakeholder networks
  • involvement in fundraising, relationship-building and networking
Board Director/ Trustee
Strategy & planning
  • strategic thinking
  • maintaining strategic direction through programme delivery
  • development of strategic frameworks
  • development of organisational plans and related, integrated resource mobilisation plans
  • conceptualising, designing and implementing projects and programmes
Executive Director/ CEOs, Directors, Managers
  • strategy and planning (big picture)
  • engaging externally with stakeholders and particularly with the media

central to organisational visibility and stakeholder confidence

Executive Director/ CEOs, Directors
Relationship building The head of an organisation usually holds the key relationships, although engagement responsibilities should be shared.  Most staff in an organisation will develop, hold, build and maintain external relationships in the normal course of their work.  Skills required for this include:

  • Managing donor relationships (from approach to reporting to relationship development)
  • Mapping stakeholders and relationships
  • Building relationships
  • Networking for organisational good
Executive Director/ CEOs, Directors
Voice, visibility & building profile Media and communications are key for promoting the voice, visibility and profile of the organisation and its position on key issues. Skills required include, amongst others:

  • Writing
  • Media liaison
  • Social media savvy
  • Key message development
  • Understanding of target audiences for communications
  • Networking
  • PR, and identification/ creation of platforms
  • Contextual awareness
CEO/ Director of Development/

Specialists within the organisation/ outsourced

Fundraising tools
  • Developing a Case for support
  • Developing project plans
  • Conducting prospect research and identification
  • Donor cultivation
  • Holding donor meetings
  • Making the Ask
  • Proposal writing
  • Donor stewardship
  • Donor reporting
  • Donor recognition
  • Fundraising data management – integrated with organisational data
  • Alumni relations or “Friends of” groups
  • Policies development (accepting donor income, donor funding ethics etc)
  • Outcomes and impact monitoring, measurement and reporting


Possible roles – depends entirely on the stage or organisational development.

  • Director of Development (or Advancement or Fundraising or Sustainability)
  • Major Gifts Officer
  • Individual Giving Officer
  • Legacies and Bequests Officer
  • Alumni Officer
  • Communications and Marketing Manager
  • Web and Social Media Officer
  • Database Officer
  • Campaigns Officer
  • Prospect Researcher
  • Proposal Writer
  • Projects Manager
  • Finance Manager
  • Donor Stewardship Officer
  • M&E officer
Financial management
  • Budget development (organisation and project)
  • Financial strategy, planning and management
  • Financial reporting
  • Donor reporting
  • Annual audited financials
  • Investing
  • Finance Director or Finance Manager
  • Book-keeper
  • Accounts Officer
Monitoring and evaluation
  • Identifying outputs, outcomes and impact
  • Defining the questions against which to gather data
  • Collection of data for reporting
  • Monitoring to check delivery and adjust activities
  • Evaluating effectiveness & impact
  • Report-writing
  • Co-ordination of internal learning and the sharing of knowledge externally
  • M&E Officer
  • Executive or Programme Director, Programme Managers
Organisational Development and growth management
  • Understanding the needs of an organisation in development
  • Paying attention to staff development and team-building
  • Consciously building a positive organisational culture
  • Ensuring staff are supported in their organisational and personal goals
  • Developing strong staff members towards longer-term service
  • CEO/ Leadership Team
  • HR manager
  • (and Board must maintain oversight)

One thought on “Sustainability Practice Areas for non-profit organisational resilience: the basic skills set

  1. Pingback: Capacity building for South African NPOs – what works? | philanthropediaSA

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