According to statistics, the majority of nonprofits have annual incomes of $100,000 or less. Most of their money goes for programs and services, and the rest goes to overhead. Those organizations do not have the budgets to provide their employees with professional trainings like workshops, classes, conferences and joining associations. Yet, these small shop employees and their organizations would greatly benefit from additional training. Fortunately, many groups like the Nonprofit Association of Oregon and Willamette Valley Development Officers offer low cost or free opportunities to learn, and often scholarships and grants are available to provide nonprofit employees learning opportunities. Some foundations and other donors may be willing to financially support learning opportunities with grant funding.
I recently posted about one group called the Washington County Nonprofit Network, a program of Vision Action Network that sponsors low cost, many times free opportunities for local nonprofits. It is through my involvement with WCNN that I have been able to take advantage of opportunities and attend over thirty events over the last few years. It is because of those workshops and trainings, I now have much of the knowledge necessary to help any nonprofit I may work for to be more successful and help it grow a sustainable fundraising program.
For those of you who are lucky enough to have the opportunities to attend workshops, classes and conferences, here are some suggestions to get the most out of them.
- Pay attention and get rid of distractions. Turn off your cell phones when you sit down and leave them off. You can miss calls from your coworkers and friends for a couple hours. You don’t have to reply to every text or tweet the second they come in. When a cell phone rings, it disrupts your thought flow and those around you. Don’t be rude to the speaker or the others attending the training.
- Take notes while the speaker is sharing information. Studies have shown that you will retain more information when you write it down than you will just by listening. You can always return to your notes in the future, especially if your memory is not great.
- Engage the speaker when the opportunity arises. Many, if not most of the speakers of the trainings and workshops I have attended, want an open dialogue and encourage interaction and participation. They want you to share your thoughts and ideas because it can be a learning experience for them as well. There have been a number of times when I shared observations that the training leaders appreciated. One or two even said they would quote my comments in future trainings because they were novel and appropriate for others.
- After the class or workshop is over, take the time to personally thank the trainer or teacher and ask more questions or make more comments. Many times, I have made connections with the speakers and created relationships that have allowed further dialogue and learning opportunities. Often, I will get business cards and connect on Linked In or Twitter, and those individuals will continue to share information in the future which can be very educational.
- Share what you learn with others. After the workshop is over, feel free to tweet the highlights to your Twitter followers and share what you learned with your coworkers. Believe me; they will appreciate your effort to share.
It is important that you make the most of your training opportunities. There is always more you can learn to be more effective in your field, and what you learn will make your organization better. If you don’t make the most of your learning opportunities, you are only wasting valuable resources of time and money.