3 Reasons to Explore Virtual Training For Nonprofit Staff


We now accept the fact that learning is a lifelong process of keeping abreast of change. And the most pressing task is to teach people how to learn.

Peter Drucker

Learning is truly an everlasting endeavor. When we stop learning, we stop growing. As a leader in the nonprofit sector, you’re not only concerned with your own learning journey, but the professional development of your employees as well.

You may be thinking that it’s not the right time to consider additional employee training at your organization because everyone is stressed about the pandemic. However, that’s actually what makes it a perfect time to invest in new training programs!

One of the silver linings of the COVID-19 pandemic is that individuals are enjoying newfound free time while staying at home. Often, they’re using this time to seek new learning opportunities to enhance their skills and become better versions of themselves.

So how can you, in the words of Peter Drucker, “teach people how to learn?” One great way is to guide your staff through new information using a virtual training course. When you set predefined learning goals, your staff members won’t be left to fend for themselves to find the information on their own. They’ll have everything they need in one centralized location.

By leaning into your staff members’ desire to learn by implementing virtual training courses, you can see benefits such as:

  • Improved Staff Retention Rates
  • Increased Fundraising ROI
  • Additional Opportunities Created for Staff

The Nonprofit Leadership Alliance guide to nonprofit courses provides guidance for choosing courses that are best suited for nonprofit staff learning, including open source vs. paid learning opportunities, subject matter analysis, and some example courses. Let’s dive into some of the benefits you’ll receive by offering your staff one of these training courses!

Nonprofit Staff Training Outcomes

1. Improved Staff Retention Rates

According to the LinkedIn 2018 Workplace Learning Report, 94% of employees would stay longer at a company if it invested in their career. But, they feel held back due to limited time for learning.

Now that people have the time to dedicate to professional development, offering them the opportunity to learn will show that you’re invested in their growth, encouraging employee retention.

 Make sure whatever training you offer will provide value for the development goals of your employees. For instance, you might offer:

  • A course on personalized fundraising communication to help your fundraisers advance their careers and start working with major donors.
  • Classes about program management so supporters can learn how to start and foster new programs to enhance your mission.
  • Staff management best practices courses that can help your staff members take on new leadership roles and start managing other individuals at your organization.

When you provide training opportunities to your employees, it becomes a part of the indirect compensation aspect of your total compensation strategy. According to Astron Solutions, taking a holistic approach to the compensation you provide to staff members is what encourages them to stick around for the long haul: “It’s often found that the indirect forms of compensation are the driving factors of an employee’s engagement, satisfaction with the job, and your overall retention rates.”

Hiring is one of the most expensive ventures for businesses and nonprofits alike. If you’re curious about how much it’s actually costing your organization, plug in the numbers into this free employee turnover calculator. This will show the real value of taking additional measures to retain your nonprofit’s staff.

2. Increased Fundraising ROI

The more experienced and qualified your staff are, the better managed your nonprofit will be. When you train individuals to be better fundraisers, you’ll raise more money. And, when you teach them to be more efficient with programming, you’ll save money and create a larger impact!

Ultimately, your staff members are knowledgeable, competent employees, your return on investment for all of the activities you work toward as an organization will be greater.

To maximize your ROI coming out of new educational activities, your organization should verify that  the concepts learned are immediately applicable to specific aspects of your strategy. There are two primary ways you can ensure this:

  • Design your own educational opportunities. If you’re considering creating your own training programs, you’ll have complete control over how well-applicable they are to your organization’s specific programs. You can use real-life examples from situations that have occurred in the field. This guide explains that organizations can use learning management systems to design courses that ensure everyone is on the same page. This means staff members across various departments and offices as well as volunteers will receive the same quality of training across the board.
  • Apply concepts to pre-designed courses. While designing your own courses is the best way to ensure all concepts apply to your specific situations, it can be a time-consuming and difficult process. The good news is, there is plenty of existing learning material available that can apply to your organization, it just may not be as direct. If you invest in courses, books, and other preexisting resources, be sure to maximize your use of these materials by encouraging reflection afterward. For example, an individual who takes a course on effective communication may discuss the application of those principles they learned with their manager.

Ensure all parties involved in the virtual training experience get the most out of the experience. The ideal programs allow your staff members to advance in their careers while giving your organization an efficiency boost.

Here’s a practical example of how these courses can boost your ROI:

Tom is a fundraiser at The Home Builder Organization. He loves fundraising and wants to become a major gift officer in the future. Therefore, he takes a course on personalized fundraising communications. From this course, he learns more about how he can better personalize the emails he sends to existing supporters using the tools and system he currently works with.

He implements this new system and raises the donor retention rate for the supporters he works with by 10%. The managers notice this increase in revenue driven by Tom and invite him to take on new responsibilities, helping Tom achieve his personal goals.

You can see how your staff members will be empowered to implement immediate, powerful fundraising changes after taking a specialized course!

3. Additional Opportunities Created for Staff

As you can see, providing training and professional development opportunities for your staff members is beneficial for the personal success of each employee as well as the success of your organization. But why is virtual training the answer?

There are a number of resources available that staff members can use to develop professional skills. Virtual training, well-chosen books, effective articles, in-person courses, journals, and other platforms are just a sample of the many potential learning resources you can use. Virtual training, however, is the most accessible option for the majority of organizations.

Virtual training courses provide accessibility benefits such as:

  • At-home options. Especially during the era of COVID-19, people are looking for at-home solutions and opportunities to learn. Virtual training can be completed at home by your staff members, allowing for social distancing and convenience.
  • Guided learning. When you read a book or an article, it can be challenging to know exactly what the most important aspects are. However, guided learning through built-out virtual training allows for knowledge checks that review important aspects of the experience and hammer home vital information.
  • Self-paced learning. While the learning is guided, it’s not stringent on timing. This means staff members can learn at their own pace. If they’re having trouble understanding a concept, they can revisit it or take their time working through that section.

Virtual training courses aren’t  the only way for staff members to learn, but they provide the most structured opportunities for development. Be sure to encourage staff members to explore other opportunities as well in their own time. For instance, they may explore the latest COVID-19 resources and articles to keep up with important news and updates.

The easier you make learning opportunities for your staff members, the more likely they are to take advantage of the educational programs you offer. Therefore, be sure to promote professional development opportunities at your organization, including virtual training and supplemental resources they can use to continue their learning.

Getting Started

Now that you fully understand the benefits of virtual training opportunities, the important question is: How will you get started?

If you’re just starting out offering virtual training for your employee development program, we recommend leaning on already-existing, established resources. Start your research with the following steps:

  1. Note the potential areas for improvement within your organization. These will help drive your search for new training opportunities.
  2. Start researching nonprofit courses that will fulfill your training goals. While open-source options are available, you’ll be more likely to obtain higher quality learning materials by selecting a paid course.
  3. Reflect on your budget and how much you can spend on courses. Then, consider the options you’ve researched. You’ll likely get the most out of subscription-based courses because you’ll have access to more content options for an all-around lower cost.
  4. Finally, choose the virtual training options that will work best for your organization and start learning!