Nonprofits don’t always have the budget for extensive professional development. If they do, it may still be hard to justify a portion of the annual budget for something that could be deemed an overhead cost. However, nonprofit managers know that training leads to a more efficient and innovative staff. Efficiency and innovation lead to better outcomes when moving the needle on important causes. If nonprofit professional development is so important, how are managers to juggle the expense without compromising the benefit? Here are a few low-cost ways to motivate your staff and uncover their true potential.

Successful Professional Development for Nonprofits - go get it

Crowdsource opportunities for learning

Most organizations, from small teams to large nonprofits can create channels for sharing knowledge and skills across occupations or departments. Perhaps the marketing department and program managers could put their heads together on representing impact through compelling narratives. Or the CFO could hold a class with field coordinators on efficiently managing budgets.

Pro Tip: Use Liberating Structures, a free online resource for facilitation techniques, to organize sessions and get the most out of limited amounts of time.

Connect employees with free resources for nonprofit professional development

Khan Academy, EdX, and Coursera are great places to start for learning in leadership, enterprise, and other topics. Its also a good idea to compile a library of resources in-house that are curated specifically to your organizations culture, ethos, and the skills that power your impact.

Pro Tip: Use Fleeq, a platform to create tutorials, and quickly turn training topics into engaging videos that staff can access long-term.

We’ve seen success in setting up informal conference calls or webinars with subject matter experts. The leadership in your company may have friends and contacts at other places that would be glad to share their insights on topics important to your staff. Its a great way to introduce new ideas and allow the team to ask questions of a friendly pro.

Pro Tip: Use Zoom, a web conferencing service, to set up virtual meetings with other leaders and experts. Or email us for suggestions! Were a friendly crew and would love to share ideas and hear yours.

Set up an article club that meets regularly during office hours

Take online resources listed in #2 to the next level by organizing space for discussion and deep dives. Or rather, model it after a traditional book club where members choose the content. Most passionate professionals follow publications, readings, videos, and news that relate to their field. Sometimes, especially in dealing with vulnerable populations, cause issues, or special skills like fundraising, learning becomes more concrete during dialogue with other colleagues.

Use Slack, a team chat and productivity platform, to keep important discussions going. The app is also great for sharing articles and resources that can easily be referenced later. Go to our offer page to learn how to access the discount.

Create a reward system for those that seek nonprofit professional development on their own

When there’s not an organizational budget to lean on for training, leaders can devote time to help employees establish nonprofit professional development goals. Have supervisors support their staff in creating independent plans. Track progress using company-wide criteria to determine success. For employees that achieve agreed-upon goals, provide rewards like an exclusive office potluck or low-cost goods like company branded t-shirts or water bottles.

Pro Tip: Use a productivity app like Trello or Asana to track progress. These tools have features for sharing goal-oriented timelines and double as an internal social network for motivation.

Facilitate coaching and mentorships

The one-on-one structure is ideal for capitalizing on an employee’s strengths to boost his or her professional development. There are resources out there that suggest better results by going one step further to coaching or developing. Coaching is performance-based mentoring and can lead to young professionals paving a clear path for career advancement.

Pro Tip: There are apps out there that connect mentors and mentees. However, we suggest taking a more intentional approach and having organizational leadership facilitate connections.

Collaboration is key for nonprofit professional development

Ultimately, the key to nonprofit professional development is to put a system in place that is easily accessed and is encouraged by company culture. Remember to implement strategies from different angles. Set up space for learning and engagement, provide resources, and incentivize. While these opportunities don’t cost much money, they do rely on commitment and consistency to work. With strategies like this that bring staff together, the benefit of training and development will become apparent beyond your employees individual achievements. It will also manifest in better collaboration for your cause.