6 Best Practices: Is Your Nonprofit Staff Training Effective?

6 Best Practices: Is Your Nonprofit Staff Training Effective? (downloadable pdf) by Rebecca Wyatt for Salsa Labs. Discussion of types of training and the steps to build more robust training opportunities for your staff.


Here are a few best practices to get you started:
1. Training should support organizational goals

First, you have to identify attainable organizational goals and work towards them across all of the actions of our organization. Then, identify learning objectives for each training session that tie directly back to those organizational goals. If the training isn’t going to help you achieve your goals, it’s probably better to invest valuable resources elsewhere.

2. Effective training links to clearly articulated job descriptions and work processes

Similar to articulating organizational goals, you must also clearly articulate job descriptions and work processes. Once those are clearly defined, it’s much easier for your training program to define what success looks like. Check out this blog on 10 must-have skills for easily any job in nonprofit digital communications.

3. Vary your training methods

While instructor-led training is great for the delivery of key skills and concepts, nothing beats ongoing coaching for reinforcing those concepts and fine-tuning the results. Remember to keep these sessions fun and engaging. Don’t let bad trainings happen to your nonprofit! Overall, whether the coaching comes from managers or peer mentors, the basic steps are the same.

  1. Present a new challenge in the form of a work-related task or project
  2. Provide access to the knowledge and resources necessary to meet the challenge
  3. Meet regularly during the completion of the task or project to provide meaningful feedback and mentoring
One quick caveat to coaching as an instructional strategy – coaching is also a skill which must be taught, practiced, and evaluated before implementation. You can’t tell your staff (managerial or otherwise) to “provide coaching” without showing them how to do it!

4. New hires should complete a thorough orientation

Start early! Training new employees bonds them with senior staff and conveys that they’re a valued part of the team. New hire orientation also exposes them to the organization’s culture and sets a tone of continuous learning and improvement right from the beginning. Nonprofits are uniquely positioned to inspire new employees around the organization’s mission. Nonprofit employees didn’t sign up to process invoices – “connect their work to finding a cure for cancer.”

5. Job-related information and training should be readily available

Curating and managing job-related information is an ongoing task as the body of knowledge tends to grow over time. Identify the information and tools employees need to perform their jobs well and invest in a robust knowledge-management system so that they can find it.

6. Create a culture of learning

Let’s face it – not every new employee you hire is going to intrinsically value learning, so it’s important to convey that in your organization continuous learning is valued and rewarded.

Leaders must demonstrate that learning is valued by continuously seeking their own professional development opportunities and sharing their enthusiasm with staff.

They must also include learning outcomes in staff professional goal setting and performance evaluations.  A culture of learning doesn’t stop at formal training – we learn from each other. Organizational leadership should enable teamwork to facilitate this.

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