How does your organization approach professional development?
Is it a faraway and fantastical desire, something everyone on your team would love to do but knows they never will?
Is it a sneaky secret, wherein folks are guiltily stealth-joining free webinars because they feel like they should be “doing their job”?
Or perhaps it’s like spotting a wild snow leopard, where everyone remembers that one time staff from your organization went to a conference, but the chance to go again is nowhere to be seen?
Whatever your historical or current approach to professional development, it’s never too late to nurture a new culture. Starting today, you can better support, cultivate, and retain your team through professional development.
How? We have five suggestions on how to expect and encourage professional development at your organization.
#1: Remember that professional development ties into your mission.
We feel confident in assuming that you want your team to be the most effective agents of your mission possible. After all, you have lives to change and impact to make. To that end, everyone should be constantly learning how to be better at their job, because if each person is better at their role, they will be better at advancing the mission. Share this philosophy with your team.
#2: Talk about seeking out professional development – a lot.
It’s not enough to remind your team once per year that they should seek out professional development. It should be a topic of conversation during regular team meetings, 1:1 meetings, performance reviews, and casual water cooler talk. The more you emphasize the invitation to seek out professional development, the more your team will take it seriously.
#3: Give examples of professional development opportunities.
Staff who may want professional development may not know where to look for it or what their options are. Thus, the more directive and specific you can be about possible professional development opportunities, the more those opportunities become real in the minds of your staff. Keep a running Google Chat, Slack channel, or other mode wherein your team can share ideas for webinars, conferences, lectures, or networking events that might spark interest across the team. You could even devise a labeling system to tag an opportunity as “free and online,” “free and in-person,” “costs money and local,” or “costs money and travel.”
To offer some starting ideas to share with your team, check out:
NTEN’s NTC – focused on technology + digital skill-building
Classy Collaborative – focused on technology + emerging sector trends
Cause Camp – a conference for “nonprofits by nonprofits”
Nonprofit Storytelling Conference – focused on donor messaging + strategy
AFP ICON – one of the biggest fundraising conferences of the year, hosted by AFP
Bridge – focused on the intersection of marketing + fundraising
Nonprofit Innovation Summit – focused on digital fundraising, hosted by NextAfter
#4: Be transparent and open about budget.
Free learning opportunities abound these days, but the old adage that, “You get for what you pay” is very often true here. It is worth your while to ensure your team can access high-quality content, and that is going to mean sometimes paying for it. To that end, you need to be clear and transparent with your team about their professional development budget. How much can an individual spend per year? And if there’s a great opportunity that stretches the budget, what conversation can be had to see if it’s doable? If someone gets to travel for a conference, what is the per diem allowance?
#5: Create outlets for sharing.
When someone attends a webinar, lecture, or conference, how should they share back their key takeaways and lessons learned with your larger team? Is it via online chat? A quick share-out in a staff meeting? To reinforce that professional development is celebrated and useful, be sure to create outlets for your team members to act the expert and teach their lessons forward.
Want to talk more about how to foster your organization’s culture of professional development? Let’s chat! Email us at [email protected] so we can brainstorm with you.