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10 Skills You Need as An NGO Development Coordinator

Unlike a normal corporate job, development coordinators at NGOs are required to possess a wide range of professional and soft skills in order to be successful in the human rights sector. Acting as the backbone for many activities and projects, development coordinators are a central figure in all aspects of human rights advocacy, from managing fundraising efforts to promoting a healthy work environment. Here are 10 skills a development coordinator will need in their day-to-day jobs:

#1 Project Management

Project management is an integral skill for individuals aspiring to become a development coordinator at an NGO, as there are always multiple projects running simultaneously that require a high level of organization and management skills. As human rights NGOs work with governmental entities, law firms and other non-profit organizations, a development coordinator is required to stay on top of targets, deadlines and timelines of projects, while maintaining a high quality of output. Furthermore, as human rights NGOs typically work in small teams, it is important for a development coordinator to manage a project and assign achievable goals to team members through effective planning and execution. Consequently, human rights professionals will need excellent project management skills to develop a team that work to create concrete change in the human rights sector.

#2 Fundraising

Funding is often a major hurdle for NGOs as many human rights organizations rely on donations and grants in order to conduct their activities. A lack of funding often leads to a reduction of projects, advocacy and support for the human rights agenda, and has sadly led to the closure of many NGOs worldwide. Consequently, development coordinators need excellent fundraising skills and the ability to develop relationships with donors, organizations and trusts in order to secure funding for the NGO. Human rights professionals will need to employ creative strategies and think outside the box with an entrepreneurial spirit in order to continue previously established flows of funding and find new avenues for fundraising. Oftentimes, development coordinators will host fundraising events and keep donors updated on their activities to maintain relationships with their biggest sponsors.

#3 Communication

The heart of the working at an NGO lies within strong communication, as development coordinators are constantly required to liaise with other departments, colleagues, donors, governmental institutions and other organizations outside the NGO. As human rights professionals often find themselves working with stakeholders and the public, it will be integral for development coordinators to be able to communicate in both a professional and social settings. Furthermore, as development coordinators are often interviewed by major news outlets and invited to speak at press conferences, it is important for human rights professionals to be prepared for public speaking and understand that their presence and communication skills will have a huge impact on how the public perceives human rights issues.

#4 Resilience

Development coordinators will often be faced with confronting images of human rights abuses around the world and be directly exposed to individuals who have first-hand experience of traumatic incidents that infringed their rights as humans. Although holding the capacity to help these people directly may be personally and socially fulfilling, human rights professionals must be emotionally prepared in their day-to-day activities at work and ensure that these emotions do not overwhelm their professionalism and mental state. Consequently, not only do development coordinators require a high level of empathy and compassion towards the human rights agenda, they must also be mentally prepared to support stakeholders in order to support the protection of human rights.

#5 Crisis Management Skills

Working in the human rights sector is definitely not for the faint-hearted, as there can be many threats to the integrity and survival of an NGO. Human rights NGOs are often the target of smear campaigns and other attacks and thus require staff to deal with such threats in a calm and effective manner. Development coordinators will be one of the first people in contact when such a crisis occurs, and it is crucial for these professionals to focus on the situation at hand by pinpointing the root of the issue under a stressful environment. Moreover, crisis management will require human rights professionals to respond and make decisions quickly, alongside manage expectations of the issue at hand for other members in the NGO. Finally, flexibility lies in the heart of effective crisis management skills as the volatility of issues requires development coordinators to adapt to quickly changing situations with mental composure.

#6 Event Management Skills

In order to promote fundraising efforts, development coordinators will work extensively in organizing donor events and charity dinners, which require high levels of event management skills. As one of the key people within an NGO, development coordinators often are responsible for organizing an event team, marketing, inviting prospective donors and coordinating the logistics of the event. Organizing a large-scale fundraising event will require development coordinators to not only have interpersonal skills, flexibility and the ability to keep calm under pressure, they also need creativity to host a memorable and successful event. Consequently, professionals in the human rights sector require a plethora of soft skills and leadership initiative in order to organize a fundraising event and promote their cause and passion for human rights advocacy to the wider community.

#7 Advocacy Skills

Advocating for clients within the human rights sector is an integral skill for development coordinators in order to communicate on behalf of marginalized communities. As NGOs are used as a platform to ensure the voices of victims of human rights voices are heard, it is important for human rights professionals to share their stories in an empathetic and effective manner, in order to spread awareness of such issues to the broader public. Advocacy efforts have huge potential in gaining public support and will help to create concrete change at local, national and international levels. Furthermore, advocacy efforts also require development coordinators to develop excellent listening skills to fully understand the stories of victims and support these vulnerable people by having their voices fairly represented in the public sphere.

#8 Monitoring and Evaluation

As many projects conducted at human rights NGOs are funded by grants and the donations of supporters, development coordinators are responsible for upholding the accountability and transparency of the work of the NGO. In order to facilitate reporting the activities of the NGO back to stakeholders and donors, development coordinators are required to use their monitoring and evaluation skills to maintain a strong relationship with the individuals who fund these human rights initiatives. Not only does monitoring and evaluating the activities of an NGO provide transparency to stakeholders, it also helps to analyze and determine the progress of projects by tracking achievements and reflecting upon what strategies were effective. This process of evaluation helps facilitate the decision-making process and ensures that NGOs are effectively making an impact upon the communities they work with.

#9 Promote healthy work environment

Although development coordinators work extensively with outside stakeholders, clients and institutions, they also hold an important role in determining the work environment within the NGO. As NGOs often work in small teams across different projects, it is the responsibility of development coordinators to create a sense of cohesion and direction for staff by fostering a safe work environment where all staff feel comfortable sharing their ideas and insights towards human rights advocacy. In order to promote a healthy work environment, development coordinators can commit themselves to incorporate values of equity, ethics and morality into their day-to-day activities and place respect and trust at the top of their agenda. For instance, human rights professionals can create a safe work environment by respecting cultural and gender norms within the workplace and establish avenues where staff can express their concerns in an impartial and respectful manner.

#10 Teamwork Skills

Teamwork is a central aspect when working as a development coordinator at an NGO due to the synergy created by multiple people working towards a common goal or solution. Not only does teamwork foster a greater diversity of ideas and approaches to solve pressing human rights issues worldwide, it also increases work-flow speed and enables greater efficiency when working on group projects. Development coordinators will often find themselves in a leadership role as they coordinate the distribution of tasks, members of the project and the logistical aspects of the project, which ultimately require human rights professionals to use their problem solving and interpersonal skills in order to create a successful project that promotes human rights advocacy.

About the author

Kaori Higa

Kaori Higa is a freelance writer based in Vancouver, Canada. She has worked extensively in the human rights sector, public relations consulting and within state governments across three continents. As part of her work, Kaori has coordinated logistics for governmental press conferences and proposed strategies that encourage governmental and legal institutions to adopt human rights-based policies and legislation. Aside from her political endeavors and human rights advocacy, Kaori is an avid classical violinist, having been invited to perform a violin solo in Carnegie Hall.