Nonprofit Training and Professional Development

Expert Advice on How to Afford Nonprofit Training and Professional Development

This article is about finding the money for nonprofit training and professional development. While many nonprofits understand the importance of investing in continuing education, many of them still underinvest. After all, budgets are tight. And professional development is not a core expense. Right?

No. Training and continuing education are crucial to your organizational success. Providing training not only gives your team the skills they need to do their jobs better, it also communicates that you value your team’s contributions so much so that you are willing to finance developing their skills. Any investment you make in training and professional development pays off in spades.

How to Afford Nonprofit Training and Professional Development

Professional development is as much of a core expense as finance and human resources are. When you are building your budget, make professional development a priority. It makes no sense to spend money hiring extra staff when you can realize the same benefit by improving efficiencies in current staffing. Add staff only when efficiencies in current staffing are exhausted.

Calculate the Benefits of Training and Professional Development

You want your fundraising team—board members, staff, and fundraising volunteers—to grow and develop by offering continuing education. And the reasons are many, including:

  • It creates a culture of lifelong learning and continuous improvement.
  • It increases engagement with your agency.
  • It lets team members discover their passions and align them with their fundraising duties, creating a sense of purpose, increasing motivation, and decreasing attrition.
  • It promotes awareness and an opportunity to hone team members’ strengths.
  • It boosts cognitive functioning.
  • Your team will stay up to date with emerging technologies that can improve workflow, improving return on human investment.
  • Your team will pick up advanced skills and perform their fundraising tasks more accurately and efficiently, reducing costs.
  • Your staff will realize efficiencies in their work, increasing productivity. A Garter Research Study found that for every hour spent of employee training, five hours of productivity are saved annually.
  • It improves morale by showing team members you value their contributions and expertise.
  • It makes your nonprofit attractive to the others you want to get involved with your organization.

Look at the financial and human return on investment. The benefits far outweigh the costs. Run your numbers—the cost of status quo versus the cost of doing it more efficiently. To get the budget allocation from board members, create a chart demonstrating the financial effects of choosing the continuing education investment over the cost of things remaining the same. Run the numbers. Put it in terms of dollars and cents.

Align Your Fundraising Goals with Your Training Needs

To generate needed revenues, align your fundraising plan with your organizational budget. You want your fundraisers to be aware of agency training needs so they can find donors for it. Or negotiate for it. Or find volunteers to help deliver it. Make finding resources that help cover your professional development expenses a priority.

Give your staff time to attend professional association meetings. There they can network with other fundraisers who can help them solve a vexing problem, give them that next great fundraising idea, or support them in their work. They may even be able to find a mentor who can help them navigate the fundraising process.

Set your organization up for success. Plot out how you’re going to fund professional development initiatives. Talk with your board about putting aside resources for staff, volunteers, and their growth.  Plan how you’re going to move ahead.  Allocate time for it, collect data on finding and obtaining it, and measure results.

Plan for Expansion

It is in overall net surpluses that you find money to invest in your agency’s future and expand organizational capacity. You should always budget for an overall surplus, setting aside a portion for future training and professional development.

To ensure you realize positive net income, it is good practice to budget your expenses 5 percent higher than you think they will be and budget revenues 5 percent lower than you think they will be while still projecting positive net income. It is how your nonprofit will financially grow.

To create a budget surplus, craft your revenue budgets before you develop your expense budgets. That way, operational capacity is in line with income generation capacity. It does you no good to state unrealistic fundraising income projections. If your income projections are overstated, you will end up failing to meet your budget, realizing negative net income, and getting grief from your board because you are not meeting expectations.

Kill the Scarcity Mindset

If you don’t think you can raise the money, you probably won’t. As a leader, your values and belief system will influence and change the organizational culture. Your mindset has a lot to do with your success.

If you doubt you can find the funds, you may need to kill your scarcity mindset. The scarcity mindset is a belief that there is a finite number of resources in the universe for which people and organizations compete. Life is a competition for fixed resources and there are winners and losers in the game. When one person or organization gets a large piece of the pie, by necessity, everyone else gets a smaller piece of the pie.

The abundance mindset is the opposite of the scarcity mindset. The abundance mindset is the belief that there is enough for everyone. Instead of seeing one pie being divvied up, you see the possibility of making another pie. Rather than competition producing winners and losers, you see it producing more and more value, for example, more knowledge, skill, and experience. Life is not a win-lose proposition with the abundance mentality. You believe you can always find a win-win solution.

A scarcity mindset hinders successful fundraising. It says resources are scarce, An abundance mindset believes there are enough resources to go around. It’s just a matter of tapping into creative solutions.

Investing in Nonprofit Training and Professional Development

Continuing education and professional development are crucial to your team’s fundraising success, teaching them the skills they need to perform in their roles effectively. They are core organizational functions and should be a high priority when budgeting. Don’t underinvest in your team’s continuing education. Investments in employee training and professional development pay off in spades. The benefits far outweigh the costs.

More About Finding Needed Resources

 Of course, training and professional development are not the only core functions you seek to grow. To learn how you can build your nonprofit up with the budget you have, read my new book The ROI Mindset: How to Raise More Money with the Budget You Have

See my books and trainings