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First Steps Toward a Skills Strategy for the Voluntary/Non-profit Sector

September 8, 20068 September 2006

Volunteers & donors / Nonprofit sector information

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First Steps Toward a Skills Strategy for the Voluntary/Non-profit Sector

Towards a Skills Strategy for the Voluntary/Non-profit Sector

These reports provide a summary of background research and discussions at a March 2005 workshop to develop a skills strategy for paid workers in Canada’s voluntary/non-profit sector. The background report, based on interviews, a literature search and websites of key stakeholders, highlights some potential elements of a skills strategy for the proposed Human Resources Council for the Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector:

  • “working with organizations to analyze labour force trends and human resource needs and challenges related to paid employment in the sector;
  • identifying skill requirements;
  • providing information about existing training programs that can help meet these requirements;
  • connecting voluntary/non-profit organizations to enable them to share learning and expertise on human resource issues;
  • providing practical HR tools and resources; and
  • developing new programs targeted at sub-groups within the sector.”

At the workshop session, there was a consensus among the 27 participants “that the HR Council’s initial focus should be on generic skills that apply to organizations across the sector”. The key skills identified include: management (including human resources); strategic planning; fundraising; accountability mechanisms; governance; communications; customer service; accounting and finance; and research. The workshop participants identified that there may be differences in the skills needs of small and large organizations.

The report recognizes that there are unique working conditions in the sector, which have implications for skills development. These unique working conditions include: “project based funding; relationships with funders; working with volunteers; the high incidence of temporary employment in the sector; the relatively low wages for managers and professional staff; the difficulty of advancement in small organizations; and the stress that comes from constant change.”

The key ideas and suggestions put forward to the proposed Human Resources Council regarding a skills strategy include:

  • “Networking and connecting with sub-sectors, professional associations and established regional groups”;
  • “Fostering the development of new regional groups of stakeholders and partners”;
  • “Focusing initially on generic skills”;
  • “Synthesizing existing research about skills development”;
  • “Scanning and creating an inventory of existing training materials”; and
  • “… undertaking a trend analysis to understand how skills are changing in the sector and where they are likely to go over the next five years”.

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