Many nonprofit organizations are small, with few staff and limited resources. Additionally, the support they receive is often shared among the many other worthy and needy organizations in their communities. As such, education and training often take a back seat to the pressing matters that staff face. The passion and generosity around the cause for which the nonprofit works plays out in the office too, with resources first for staff and the board, and lastly or not at all for the nonprofit leadership.
But here is the punchline, right up front: No nonprofit is too small for education. In smaller organizations, investing in education may result in more “bang for the buck” as efficiency and knowledge are critically important for a small team. Likewise, no nonprofit is too large for education either; there are always new challenges and approaches that can be gained by investing in educational opportunities.
Consider certificate courses
Some nonprofit staff choose on-line educational opportunities due to the schedule or convenience, but when it is available, in-person learning can boost both knowledge and connections. Advanced degrees in management and business are now more common for nonprofit executives, but in some cases, a targeted, shorter training may be just what a nonprofit leader or staff member needs. Many colleges and universities are developing certificate programs for mid-career learners, delivering curriculum that is narrower in focused and aimed a certain skill set or knowledge area. (If you haven’t heard of certificate programs yet, do an internet search with a topic of interest and the name of your alma mater or favorite college sports team!)
These programs allow learners to dive deep into a topic for a short duration, perhaps a week or a few months, and network extensively with leaders in their field. They are often “non-credit bearing” courses, but for mid-career professionals, that might not matter as much, if they are stacking credentials and a multi-year program is not required. Certificate courses also allow nonprofit leaders to develop a skill set in an area that might not have been their original course of study. For example, an executive director of a healthcare nonprofit may find themselves in need of finance and budget skills, while their primary education was in public health. A certificate or short course might fill that need in a tidy fashion. And although investing in education may require a larger percentage of a small nonprofit’s resources compared to a large company, the benefits may actually have a bigger impact as the outcomes are shared with the nonprofit team and board members.
Brainstorm, research, and go for it!
Taking the first steps toward this goal may feel daunting, but when broken down, a little research and drive will get you headed in the right direction.
Opportunities for mid-career learning are on the rise. This summer, the Vail Centre is proud to host the Duke Nonprofit Management Program, a certificate program delivered to nonprofit leaders who are coming from near and far to learn from top-notch university professors. The Vail Centre is also hosting the University of Denver’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute during a week-long program in September. Both these courses will be attended by learners from Eagle County as well as destination learners from near and far. Locally, programming such as the Vail Centre Community Leadership Institute enhances the skills, knowledge, and networking of many Eagle Valley employees. Whether your organization has 2, 10, or 30 staff, take a moment to consider what gaps may exist in your skills sets, and set a goal to invest in your team and yourself through education.