Does your nonprofit support staff through continuing education? Do you even have a line item in your budget for professional development? Or are you asking yourself, “What does ‘professional development’ even mean, anyway?”
Professional development encompasses a variety of specialized education and training through online and in-person courses, webinars, and conferences. It’s a necessary cost of doing business and employee compensation. Opportunities for continuing education are vital to keep growing in our chosen careers.
And while career advancement is important, it’s not the only benefit of having access to continuing education.
1. Increased employee satisfaction
Nonprofits often can’t afford to pay the highest wages or shell out for hefty bonuses. But cash isn’t the only way to show that you appreciate your staff (though you should be paying your staff a fair and liveable wage, of course).
People who feel supported in their professional goals are happier in their positions, even if they’re not making as much money as their for-profit counterparts. This means better workplace morale, and better morale means less burnout and more engagement.
Studies have shown that organizations who offer professional development opportunities have a higher staff retention rate than those who don’t. Setting aside even $500 to $1000 per employee for trainings and certifications is much less expensive than the costs of staff turnover.
2. Better results for your organization
When your development assistant completes an online course on digital engagement strategies, starts working toward his CFRE, or attends events like the Nonprofit Technology Conference, everyone wins.
Not only will he learn new skills, resources, and tools, chances are high that he’ll apply that learning with renewed vigor and inspiration in his day-to-day work in the development department. Those new approaches to donor engagement will mean more resources so you can meet your fundraising goals and keep your organization humming along.
Similarly, you can set your new program manager up for success by making sure she receives training in project management techniques and tools, or courses in leadership and management approaches.
In my own work with NTEN, we consistently hear from participants in our courses and annual conference that they feel more positive and inspired about their work and their ability to create change. They are able to immediately put into practical use what they’ve learned and start seeing results. Achieving success toward goals not only helps employees feel more satisfied, it helps you better fulfill your mission.
3. Rising tide, lifted boats
Better educated and more motivated employees means we can better fulfill our missions and serve our communities. We’re better equipped to be the trusted and respected leaders we know we already are.
So the next time you bring your annual budget to the board, make the case for professional development opportunities for your nonprofit’s staff and include it as a line item. We may joke about “nonprofit life” when office chairs are broken or the air conditioning goes out, but at the end of the day, we’re professionals, and our work matters.
When we invest in professional development, that’s what we’re saying: Your work matters, and we believe you’re worth the investment.
Erin Doherty is NTEN’s Digital Engagement Manager. She has nearly 20 years’ experience providing editing, communications, fundraising, and administrative support to nonprofit organizations, including community arts, queer health, feminist, and anti-domestic violence programs. Working in digital communications sits perfectly at the intersections of her nerdy excitement for writing, editing, and futzing around with HTML and CSS.