Ongoing professional development creates a culture of achievement, increases employee engagement and retention, and contributes to a more successful team overall. This is especially true for nonprofit human resources.
Let’s be honest: as a nonprofit HR professional, you’re likely working with a (much) smaller team than preferred. It’s just the name of the game when you want to direct as many resources toward your mission as possible! But, if you’re working with a small team that’s full of talented individuals, you can overcome any fundraising, donor stewardship, or advocacy obstacles that come your way.
At Artisan E-Learning, we’ve seen firsthand the major impact that custom-developed e-learning courses can have on the professional development of nonprofit staff and volunteers alike. So, let’s walk through a few professional development challenges you may be facing and how you can create e-learning courses to surpass them.
Challenge #1: Staff members aren’t meeting the expectations of their role.
No nonprofit human resources manager wants to see negative feedback flowing through their organization’s performance management system, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen from time to time. When it happens, it’s up to you to come up with a solution that re-establishes expectations and provides your staff members with the tools they need to succeed.
So how does e-learning factor into this? Well, let’s walk through a scenario.
Let’s say you’ve recently conducted performance reviews for your major gift officers and one of your officers is not meeting expectations. This officer is struggling to reach their major gift goals and retain donors after the fact.
Here’s how you can create an e-learning course that helps this major gift officer grow into their role:
- Share the “why” behind all points. You may have identified that the officer is leaving key questions out of conversations with prospects, such as, “Can we contact you in the future to discuss major gifts?” Cover why those questions are crucial. In this case, it’s to keep the conversation going with a prospect to secure that gift farther down the road.
- Use branching scenarios. If you’re creating training to improve your team as a whole, branching scenarios can guide staff members to the points they need the most help with. For major gifts officers, this could be topics such as identifying prospects, conducting effective conversations, and efficiently following up.
- Create readily-available refresher materials. Mobile-friendly job aids, microcourses, and even a year-round course library can all be beneficial for staffers who are struggling to meet their goals. They can refresh their memory by pulling out a job aid located on their mobile phone, rather than asking for additional one-on-one training.
It’s also a good idea to consider working with an e-learning content development company to develop these courses—especially in situations where the key concepts are not sticking. Just think back to the last time you spoke to a true expert on a topic. Did they leave out key details, assuming that you can fill them in yourself?
We’ve all been guilty of this before. However, experts in course design can help you understand why there are blind spots in your course, and create new content that covers all of the needed concepts in an engaging manner.
Challenge #2: Your team is confronting a new challenge.
There are two ways to confront a challenge: with a sigh and annoyance, or with excitement and an eagerness to learn more. Ideally, your team falls in the second category—and if you present them with an opportunity to step up, an e-learning course instructing them how to do so, and a potential increase in compensation, they jump right in.
But, even if you’re working with a team of “eager beavers,” that doesn’t mean that taking on new responsibilities is an easy task.
Let’s consider an example. You’re asking your fundraising and outreach teams to take the new responsibility of incorporating social media-based fundraising in your overall strategy going forward. This means they need to quickly become familiar with Facebook and Instagram if they aren’t already, and how to market on and access donations made on those platforms.
Here’s how you can create training that elevates your team to meet this challenge:
- Use immersive scenarios. Would it be more helpful for you to be told how to make a new fundraising page on Facebook, or to explore a simulated version of the platform and actually “make” the page? In the latter, you learn by doing in an immersive scenario.
- Use examples to explore new topics. This draws back to the age-old saying, “show, don’t tell.” Every time you present a new topic, solidify the idea with an example. So, if you’re discussing impactful social media copy, present two examples of nonprofit posts. Ask learners to identify which has the most effective copy and why. Then, share the reasoning behind why their answer was correct or not.
- Create relatable content. Courses should be representative of what it’s like working at your nonprofit, not just generic experiences that all team members at a nonprofit face. Rather than discussing social media best practices in general, narrow down how they can impact your team. For example, if you’re a nonprofit working with minor children, should you discuss specific image guidelines for sharing with parental consent? Of course! This level of specificity will make the content relatable and provide clearer guidance for your team.
We incorporated some of these ideas when creating e-learning content for the American Red Cross. The course was one training volunteers to complete a complicated statistical tracking form when working at a disaster relief shelter.
We used images of volunteers in action to make the course relatable and walked through examples to put information into context. A three-hour, slide-based webinar became an engaging, self-paced e-learning course.
Challenge #3: You have a high employee turnover rate.
While nonprofit staff turnover isn’t as much of an emergency as some may think, there’s no denying that employee retention is a challenge for any organization. And, the last thing you want is to invest in the professional development of your staff and then have them leave the next day!
E-learning courses are an effective staff retention tool, as they provide additional opportunities for staff members to expand their knowledge. Rather than growing complacent in their role, there are plenty of opportunities to grow.
Here are a few tips to create e-learning opportunities that make your staff want to stick around for the long run:
- Provide additional learning on specific topics. Create microlearning courses, or courses that are laser-focused on one specific topic, based around topics of interest. Whether that’s donor stewardship, the major gift officer role, social media fundraising, virtual event planning—the possibilities are endless and should be tailored to your team’s interests.
- Include a mindset-changing “wow” moment. What makes your organization and its work stand out from the crowd? Maybe your staff works harder than anyone you know, or maybe you change lives in a vulnerable population each and every day. Find a creative way to share this to increase your shock-and-awe factor.
- Present required information in an interesting way. If you’re providing yearly refresher courses, make innovative formatting choices to make the course engaging. Let’s say you’re creating a course on basic fire safety protocols in your facilities. The protocols haven’t changed since the year before, which could make for a boring course. But, what if you use click-to-reveal to cover key concepts— such as “Should staffers grab their belongings when evacuating? Where is the designated evacuation zone?” This will make the less exciting, but required aspects of working at your nonprofit more engaging.
Consider it this way: if you feel like you’re doing essential work, you’re enjoying the required work you’re doing, and your employer is invested in your success, would you want to quit your job? We wouldn’t either! Create this situation for your nonprofit’s staff and you’ll have a team that grows together through the ages.
To wrap up, e-learning courses are a powerful solution to a variety of nonprofit professional development challenges—whether you’re facing underperforming employees, new challenges, or high turnover. However, it’s not as simple as creating a webinar and calling it a day.
If you want impactful e-learning courses, your next step should be contacting a custom e-learning development company. These consultants have firsthand experience and expertise to craft interactive, engaging, and educational courses for your team. Good luck!
Amy Morrisey is the President of Artisan E-Learning and serves as Sales & Marketing Manager. Amy started with Artisan as a contract writer/instructional designer. She was our Production Manager for four years and helped the team to double its capacity. As President, she stays focused on maintaining the high standards our clients have grown to expect. She believes that staying close to our clients, our people, and our work is a smart way to do that. One of her favorite things to do in the e-learning world is jump in with a client to write a storyboard that is creative and application-based. Before working with Artisan, Amy spent 17 years in corporate training and development predominantly teaching leadership development and coaching teams and executives. She currently serves on the board of ATD Detroit.