By Jane Alexander
President and CEO
Community Foundation for Mississippi
“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” – Benjamin Franklin
One of the top concerns of businesses of all shapes and sizes is how to attract and retain talented, passionate, skilled, and committed employees. The same is true for nonprofit organizations that are continually competing with large organizations offering higher salaries and more benefits to potential employees. Nonprofit leaders are also often faced with the challenge of ensuring their current employees can continue to develop the skills they need to be effective and successful throughout their career, which means ensuring people have both relevant and practical learning opportunities.
Whether the work is fundraising, program development, advocacy, or any of the other areas nonprofits have to address, having a highly-skilled and trained workforce is a key to success. Workforce development is quickly becoming a focus of philanthropic organizations around the country and right here in Mississippi. The Phil Hardin Foundation, a private foundation based in Meridian, recently announced a $122,000 grant to Millsaps College to establish a summer internship program that will provide paid internship positions at numerous nonprofit organizations in and around Meridian. One of the goals of this effort is to help college students identify “suitable and meaningful work opportunities” in Mississippi that allow them to use their skills and talents to make a difference.
Additionally, the Mississippi Alliance of Nonprofits and Philanthropy–a new organization formed by the former Mississippi Association of Grantmakers and Mississippi Center for Nonprofits–is taking an innovative and transformative approach to support learning, growth, development, and collaboration between nonprofit and philanthropic organizations working to solve some of the state’s most complex and challenging issues. At the heart of this work, is the need to invest in continuous learning and development, especially for professionals just starting out in the nonprofit sector.
Registered Apprenticeships present another interesting pathway to offer on-the-job training for Mississippians who desire to work in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors–a pathway that would allow individuals who may not be connected to an institution like Millsaps to learn how to work in the nonprofit sector while earning a salary or wage. The cybersecurity, manufacturing, healthcare, and manufacturing industries have been implementing these types of programs for decades and have successfully cultivated a highly-skilled workforce that has helped drive success across the country. Apprenticeship can also serve as a viable option for nonprofits to build their workforce.
However, these programs are not possible without a significant investment of time and resources by nonprofits and philanthropy. If we truly want to see transformational change in our communities, we have to develop programs and systems that ensure nonprofit and philanthropic organizations have access to the resources, tools, training, and networks they need to have a meaningful and measurable impact on the communities they serve.