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How the Microsoft Digital Skills Center Can Benefit Your Nonprofit

It's 2020, and whether or not your nonprofit needs to optimize its use of technology is no longer a matter of debate. The real question this year is how you can best strategize the improvement of digital skills across your staff and volunteers.

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There's a huge variety of digital tools out there today, and the idea of getting up to speed on everything you'd like to know may seem daunting. But a good place to start is with both new and familiar software from Microsoft. In order to support our community in digital transformation, last year TechSoup Courses and Microsoft launched the Microsoft Digital Skills Center for Nonprofits.

The Digital Skills Center offers a range of paid and free learning tracks, including great courses in the classics like Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. But you can also take deep dives into tools like Teams and Power BI. Teams is a powerful collaboration software that increases productivity and communication across your organization, and Power BI is a powerful but user-friendly data aggregation and visualization tool. Expert-led courses from the Digital Skills Center can increase competency in all these tools for learners at all levels.

Let's take a closer look at some of the great stuff that's available to your nonprofit this year. We'd also like to note that new courses are being added to the center on a regular basis, so be on the lookout for new offerings not covered here.


Teams for Nonprofits

If you're in need of an all-in-one solution for communication and collaboration across departments and individuals at your nonprofit, then you should consider Teams. Teams is a chat-based workspace that allows you to set up custom collaborative environments to improve workflows across your organization.

Teams allows for live video and audio conferencing — a tool that can even be used for large online events for people outside your organization. Teams also integrates seamlessly with all the Office 365 productivity tools and tons of other third-party solutions. You can keep track of conversations across multiple projects, collaborate on documents, sheets, and presentations, and take your work anywhere with full cloud-based, mobile capabilities.

The Teams for Nonprofits learning track at the Digital Skills Center consists of three courses that take you through basic setup, advanced features, and a live, interactive Ask the Expert event to help you with any issues you may have. All our courses are available on-demand for learners to access at their convenience. Even our live seminars are made available with all resources, so in case you missed the live date, you can still take advantage of the content and recordings.


Power BI for Nonprofits

Power BI can be a useful tool at your organization that provides user-friendly access to powerful features including artificial intelligence, API integration, and more. With it, you and your staff can find deep insights into the data that you've collected about your impact, constituents, or programmatic areas. Power BI has a similar interface to Excel's, so those already familiar with this tool will find it surprisingly easy to seriously improve the way in which they aggregate, analyze, and use data at their nonprofit. With Power BI, you can create stunning data dashboards to better understand and share your findings with others while benefiting from great integrations with other Microsoft 365 apps.

The Power for BI for Nonprofits learning track offers three courses that provide everything you need to get up and running with this tool at your organization. Start with the basics of using Power BI and how its services and applications work together. Next, you'll learn how you can use Power BI in your specific role at your nonprofit. Finally, you'll learn all the ways you can collect data from different sources, "clean" it, and start making sense of it all.


Excel, Word, and PowerPoint for Nonprofits

The Digital Skills Center also includes great courses in Excel, Word, and PowerPoint. What's more, all three learning tracks in these areas are offered at no cost to all nonprofit and library staff and volunteers. Whether you need to learn the basics, brush up on some intermediate-level skills, or you want to become a power user in any of these apps, there's a Digital Skills Center course for you.

The Excel for Nonprofits learning track offers six courses, covering everything from an introduction for beginners, to formatting tables in custom worksheets and workbooks, to formatting and analyzing complex charts with data you've gathered.

The Word for Nonprofits learning track consists of four courses. These include an overview of the basics, learning to use editing tools, creating tables and lists, and using references.

PowerPoint for Nonprofits is a three-course learning track designed to show you how to make powerful presentations at your nonprofit, at fundraising events, at conferences, and more. Like all Digital Skills Center learning tracks, you'll start with a 101-level course on the basics. Next, you'll learn what you need to know about formatting text and images. Finally, you'll find out how to use video, audio, animations, and other techniques to really make your presentations shine.

Supporting Digital Transformation in the Nonprofit Community

Digital transformation — the idea that next-level problem-solving requires organizations to optimize their use of technology — is becoming increasingly important across all sectors. But it's more than just a buzzword. For nonprofits, well-executed digital transformation is critical to organizations' ability to serve their communities in the best ways they can.

Nonprofit staff must have the skills to fully take advantage of the benefits that digital transformation can bring. And as part of our commitment to supporting the move of nonprofits to the cloud, we have also started monthly Ask the Expert seminar sessions. A Microsoft expert leads a live Q&A with learners to help them solve the challenges that are stopping them from using the products more effectively. The Ask the Expert seminar for Teams has been our most successful seminar, with over 150 learners who have already attended. Over the next six months, we will have one Ask the Expert session every month.

The Digital Skills Center is committed to supporting digital transformation at nonprofits of all sizes, and this idea is the driving force behind the curriculum that's being created and revised as time progresses. In fact, the Digital Skills Center courses are included in a curated set of TechSoup courses that has been mapped to NetHope's Technical Literacy Learning Track, a framework for building nonprofit skills.

As digital skills and technical literacy improve in the nonprofit sector, we will see a collectively greater impact when it comes to solve the world's most pressing problems. This is the year to consider making an investment in digital skills at your nonprofit. It will pay off in more ways than one.

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