Through Matt Hugg, guest author
What if you had a fire in your house and it took the local fire department 30 minutes to get to the scene with horses towing a manual pump truck? Worse, in the time it took them to get there, a small kitchen fire took over the entire house. You would be upset and shocked, right?
Suppose you go to the chef to ask for an explanation. He tells you that training on modern equipment was expensive, the crew really didn’t have time, and besides, they don’t like change. Many non-profit organizations take the same attitude towards professional development: too expensive, too much time, too little interest in change.
So why professional development? Here are five reasons:
1. Don’t your customers deserve it?
In any non-profit organization, mission is number one. It doesn’t matter if you are in a shipping line, a fundraiser or a bookkeeper. The whole reason you do your job is to deliver your mission to your customer. That starts with a moral and ethical responsibility to provide the highest quality, up-to-date service possible in your field. Is it right for someone who is addicted to a substance to remain addicted because you were not aware of or could not provide the most modern proven recovery techniques? Of course not! There really is no excuse. Whatever you do in a non-profit, if there’s a better way, you should do it. To learn those ways, you need professional development.
2. Professional development saves time and money.
It’s easy to think of professional development as a cost, and there are many reasons to avoid it. At the top of the list is: “I’ve hired people who know what they’re doing! I shouldn’t be training them anymore!” But when was the last time you saw something stay the same? In a 2010 study medical education, the researchers found that medical knowledge doubles every 3.5 years! While your mission may not see that degree of change, there’s no question that change is happening faster than when you first learned your job. Many of these changes have to do with technology, and when it comes to technology, it often saves time or money, especially in the long run. Can you imagine being a stencil machine for copying and printing? Some nonprofits thrived well into the 1980s. While you may miss the alcohol-laden aroma, your digital printer is simply more cost-effective and time-saving, helping to deliver the mission better.
3. Then there are licenses.
Your nonprofit status does not exempt you from hiring personnel who need licenses to do their jobs. And even in the absence of licensure, the most proficient levels of some staff positions come with professional designations, such as the CFRE (Certified Professional Fund Raiser) for fundraisers. Hiring staff without the right credentials puts your organization at risk. It’s in any nonprofit’s interest to help them keep their licenses, if only to keep your insurance costs down and your risk of lawsuits down.
4. You can attract and retain great staff.
Professional development is a major advantage that allows you to attract the right staff. In his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, author Daniel Pink argues that there are three key ingredients to employee motivation: autonomy, mastery, and purposefulness. Sure, nonprofits have a purpose of their own. That’s why they exist. Autonomy is easy because who has time to micromanage a nonprofit when there is so much to do? But mastery? You can attract and retain great staff by encouraging them to learn! And by making your employees more efficient and competent through training, you save time and money!
5. It makes the entire organization and everyone in it look good.
When your staff moves into professional development opportunities, your nonprofit gains exposure in your community among your peers. They have the opportunity to interact with colleagues, increasing their respect for what you do and how you do it. Telling customers what they learned at the recent seminar or conference they attended will give your customers greater confidence in your ability to deliver your missionary service. When donors find out that you are committed to the best execution of your mission, they see that you go from ‘well-meaning’ to expert. They are more likely to fund your mission. Having a reputation as a “learning organization” increases the morale of your staff and volunteers. It’s a great marketing tool and helps in the long run development.
These are just some of the ways a meaningful, robust professional development program can help your nonprofit. It’s a win/win/win for every employee, your organization and most importantly those you serve. To find the opportunities that are right for your team, check out Nonprofit.Courses’ overview of nonprofit resources.
Think how many fires you will prevent and how much faster you will put out the fires than if you never did!
Matt Hugg is an author and educator in nonprofit management in the US and abroad. He is chairman and founder of Nonprofit.Coursesan on-demand, eLearning educational resource for nonprofit leaders, employees, board members, and volunteers, featuring thousands of courses in nearly every aspect of nonprofit work.