Guest post by Alec Green
Whether your nonprofit engages just a handful of volunteers or several thousand across the country, getting them up to speed efficiently and offering ongoing professional development is a common challenge.
More and more, online training is becoming a popular solution to this challenge. That’s because it’s getting easier to do. Free e-learning resources such as NonprofitReady.org are available for nonprofits. (That particular open online learning site includes 200+ learning resources covering all the major job functions in the nonprofit sector!)
In addition to general professional development courses, many nonprofits need to provide training that is specific to their mission, organization, or the volunteer role. For organizations looking to scale their volunteer management programs, the Cornerstone OnDemand Foundation launched the Impact Grant. The Impact Grant provides a two-year donation of Cornerstone OnDemand’s Learning Management System (LMS) and consulting services to enhance the training of a nonprofit’s volunteers, beneficiaries, and community partners.
Spark, a national nonprofit, recently leveraged the Cornerstone LMS to roll out its volunteer training program nationwide. The team at Spark partners with schools and workplaces to match middle-school students with career mentors in fields aligned with the students’ interests. Based on the feedback of their volunteer mentors, Spark is introducing a new structured curriculum which includes online training. The new online platform not only gives Spark the opportunity to expand its program; it opens up a variety of new ways to engage both their volunteer mentors and students.
How do you know if an online volunteer training and development strategy is right for your organization? Here are some ways to determine your readiness:
- Think about what training is critical and what falls under the “nice-to-have” category. You can also talk with your most experienced volunteers to figure out what training they will need in the future.
- Make sure your volunteers would be receptive to online training. If your volunteers are less computer-savvy, or have limited access to high-speed internet connections, then in-person training could be more effective for your organization.
- Ensure you have executive-level support behind you. Whether you qualify for an Impact Grant or use one of the many free e-learning resources available to nonprofits, taking your training program online will require some commitment of time and resources.
- Ask yourself if you’re ready for the time commitment. Remember that effective online learning is not as simple as uploading a PowerPoint or linking to a YouTube recording of a webinar or in-person training. But after the initial time investment, it will likely save you time in the long run.
So, do you think you’re ready to expand to online training and development with your volunteers?
Start by signing up for the free resource NonprofitReady.org, browse the course catalog, and see what they offer that would be of most value to your volunteers. In addition, the 2015 Impact Grant cycle is now open, and this recent webinar will help you determine if a full LMS is a fit for your organization. By adding some form of online training to your mix, you’ll be on your way to engaging, developing, and retaining your volunteer talent.
Alec Green is Chief Marketing Evangelist at Cornerstone OnDemand Foundation. He is responsible for developing the overall marketing plan and strategy for the Foundation, executing all outbound communications, increasing visibility of the Foundation’s programs, and building engagement with our partners and beneficiaries.