“Time, Talent and Treasure”: Part Two of a Three-Part Series

Katie LordKatie Lord, Vice President

As far as nonprofit jargon is concerned, we have all probably used, or at least heard, the phrase “Time, Talent and Treasure” when referring to how we can engage individuals with our organizations.  While it may seem to be a fairly basic concept, defining it is becoming an increasingly complex matter, as definitions have evolved among different generations. In this three-part series, we will examine the components of this trifecta  individually, and emphasize how your organization can effectively create programs right now that can be easily implemented to grow your base of supporters today, tomorrow and in the future.

Talent is the second segment in this three-part series examining the “Time, Talent and Treasure” paradigm as it relates to nonprofit management. As we continue to take a deeper look at each component individually, an examination of how your organization can implement strategies that effectively utilize the “talents” of your leaders and impact your current recruitment efforts can have an immediate impact on your bottom line.

(If you missed Part 1’s exploration of “Time”, click here to access the post.)

In the “Time, Talent and Treasure” trifecta of support that we use in nonprofits to describe and measure the value of contributions that our volunteers or staff provide to our organization, “talent” seems to be the hardest to define in a universal context or to measure on a scale of impact.  This is due to its ambiguous nature and differing definitions based on the uniqueness and needs of each organization.  For the purpose of this article, we are going to define “talent” as “contributions of an in-kind service that requires special skills or knowledge to perform.”

“Talent” is tied to both “time and treasure” as it requires the donating of “services and specialized knowledge” that take time to perform and implement and would require payment if performed on the open market. “Talent” is a more refined form of volunteer service as it usually provides a business-related or operational-focused service as opposed to program support.  Such “talent” directly effects budget line service costs and can include both technical and professional services.

What is unique about “talent” is that each generation has specific talents that can be utilized by a nonprofit organization.  Millennials, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers possess a vast majority of skill sets and talents that seldom overlap and are mostly unique to their era, but are complementary to each other.  When combined through Board or committee work, each generation offers great insights and the ability to accomplish and implement a more cohesive organizational business plan that will allow the nonprofit to achieve higher strategic goals at lower costs.

For example, a Baby Boomer may perform an audit, management consulting, or financial services at no charge and be able to provide valuable sector specific expert level information, as they changed jobs and sectors less often.  A Gen Xer usually has changed jobs more often than Boomers, but less so than Millennials, and are often more likely to be self-starters, middle managers and business owners, making them excellent project managers.  Millennials know a little about a lot of different sectors as they have been exposed to more cross training and job transitions.  They have skills focusing on social media, digital marketing, information technology and event planning.  This is not to say that there are not cross-generational specialties as there are exceptions to every rule, but generally speaking, the “talents” of each generation are significant to a nonprofit’s organizational success and growth.

Thus, it is very important for nonprofit organizations and leaders to not only look at the skill sets of potential Board members and volunteers when recruiting, but to also look at diversity in age, gender and race.  It is a common mistake by nonprofit leadership to only look at “treasure” when acquiring new Board members and volunteers.  While giving capacity is a factor, it should not be weighted more than “talent,” as a high degree of “talent” is usually a predictor of later success and “treasure.”  Baby Boomers and Gen Xers have used their talents to grow into their ability to give “treasure” in their higher earning years. However, that can decrease in retirement with fixed incomes looming, creating a shift in the giving of “treasure” to the increased giving of “talent.”  Gen Xers are beginning their highest earning years and the peaks of their careers, but still wish to contribute in ways that complement their dollars.  Finally, Millennials are in their early earning years and will grow into their higher earning capabilities, but are eager to contribute now, and the best way to do that is through their “time” and “talent.”  Those organizations that seek out Millennials now will see big returns later.

In closing, the three current working generations are ripe with talent if you know where to look and how to assess “talent” based on your organization’s goals and objectives.  The most talented people in a particular field are easy to find: just look in business publications, LinkedIn and trade publications.  The same names will most likely keep popping-up.  Remember, it is wise to include the younger generation now so as to cement those relationships early and to include all levels of “talent” and professions.  By doing so, you will limit the effects of “talent” turnover and create a built-in succession plan of talented leaders within your organization.  Also, a generation’s gift of “time” and “talent” will ultimately increase their commitment to your organization resulting in the gift of “treasure.”

Be sure to read the final post in Katie’s series about “Treasure.”

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