5 Considerations for Formalizing a Nonprofit’s Training Efforts

November 19, 2018

A well-designed training function engages employees and volunteers, increases retention, and informs service provision. The following considerations are a few of the most important to make, whether you’re looking to add structure to isolated learning efforts or formalize an existing training program.

Identity
Seek to understand your organization’s identity and use it as the foundation for your training efforts.

  • Mission: What is the common purpose that your organization is working toward? How does the training function support this?
  • Culture: What has learning looked like in your organization? How does your organization respond to change? Anticipate reactions and plan responses.
  • Goals: Get to know your organization’s strategic plan and create corresponding objectives for the learning function.
  • Structure: How are people, resources, and information connected? Consider locations, schedules, access, and reporting structures.
  • External Factors: How do factors like the economy, regulations, and public perception affect your organization’s leadership, employees, and customers? Anticipate external factors and have a scalable and adaptive training function that can respond as needed.

Training Needs
Assess the trainings needs of your organization to help inform and prioritize curricula design.

  • Musts: What training opportunities must your organization provide? Think about the following:
    • Laws and regulations, such as OSHA, EEO, PCI, EU GDPR, and HIPAA.
    • Accounting standard changes that impact organizational processes, such as FASB’s Not-for-Profit Financial Statement Presentation, Leases, and Revenue Recognition standards
    • Funding agreements, grants, and contracts that specify training standards.
    • Ethical obligations for professionals such as attorneys, physicians, and accountants.
    • Policies and procedures that require distribution and application.
  • Wants: What training opportunities does your organization want to provide? Think about the following:
    • Onboarding of skills, procedures, and culture elements that employees need to learn in their first few months of employment, including those from accounting and finance.
    • Professional development, including workplace skills and leadership development.
    • Diversity and inclusion. This should be considered when developing all courses; even if it is not included in “musts,” it should be a stand-alone consideration.
    • Skills gaps. Consider a survey of managers and employees to determine the difference between current and desired knowledge and skills.

Technology
Learning technology has grown alongside workplace technology.

  • Platforms include the following:
    • Informal learning such as web searches, emails, and text messaging.
    • Social learning such as wikis, blogs, and tweets.
    • Learning-specific systems like learning management systems (LMS), learning content management systems (LCMS), and content authoring tools that help you manage learners, scheduling, content, design, and reporting.
  • Technology considerations include the following:
    • Network: Does your organization have modern computers, a decent internet connection, and a solid network infrastructure?
    • Cost: Compare the expected costs and benefits of the technology with the costs and benefits of the status quo.
    • Learners: Are employees comfortable with technology? Is it likely to be used?

Internal Capacity
Use a systems-thinking approach to consider how enhancing the learning function will affect the whole organization.

  • Human Capacity: Many organizations use a project scheduling system to prioritize and organize internal resources. Planning for delays and limited resource availability will help you build a realistic and flexible plan.
  • Department or Integrated Function?
    • Department: Creating a training department is the more formal and usually more expensive route. It is generally appropriate when there is an identified need, available funding, and available learning talent to support it.
    • Integrated Function: Embedding the learning function into an existing department is the less formal route and can be a good stepping stone toward a training department. Including training within Human Resources (HR) is common due to overlapping systems, reporting, and topics like orientation, onboarding, and coaching. It’s important, however, for the training function to liaise with other functions (such as IT, accounting, project management, and quality management) and not remain insulated within HR. This is an opportunity for accounting and finance staff to be included in an organizational training program.

Outsourcing
The training industry offers a wide range of services that can support your organization’s training needs.

  • Content design to save on the expense of retaining internal course developers
  • Learning software to reduce administrative burden
  • Train the Trainer to ensure skilled internal facilitation
  • Facilitation to save on the time and expense of internal trainers
  • Massive Online Open Courses (MOOC) for increasing specific skills

Organizations looking to formalize their training programs should consider performing a training needs assessment to determine if new technology is needed, and if forming a separate department makes sense. Accounting and finance departments can benefit from the numerous learning opportunities offered by the AICPA that can be easily integrated with an organization’s planned training program. Visit aicpastore.com to learn more.