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Professional Development, Customized and Delivered

Employee engagement and retention can be a puzzle. Gaining an understanding on how to retain the brightest and most productive employees might seem daunting to many nonprofit leaders. One of the best solutions to employee turnover, however, is a commitment to training. Here’s how two GCN member nonprofits do it. 

According to GCN’s Opportunity Knocks study on employee engagement, professional development ranks as one of the top benefits to nonprofit employees — more important than benefits, vacation time, and many other factors employees consider when contemplating taking a new job (or leaving a current one).

Though time and funds for staff development can be hard to find, organizations that embrace training and skills development receive a great return on their investment. Recently, our Nonprofit University team has been helping make development more convenient and effective by offering custom training programs, designed to meet specific organizational needs and delivered on-site wherever clients need it: at the office, at a conference, or in the field. 

As executive officer for GCN member Georgia Head Start Association, Juanita Yancey plans training conferences for leaders and directors at 31 affiliate organizations, impacting more than 23,000 Georgia children. Recently, Yancey worked with Nonprofit University to tailor a custom training program called “Linking People to Purpose: Helping Employees See Their Everyday Roles in the Greater Mission,” which delivered powerful insight and know-how straight to their annual conference.

“We worked with Nonprofit University for our Fall Leadership Conference,” she said. “The session was very well received, and it was [a subject] crucial to carrying out the mission, because we have to keep the people element at the forefront of everything we do here.” 

Though a training budget might seem out of reach for some nonprofits, Yancey said, “I don’t know how your mission can be achieved without that guidance or direction from qualified, trained staff members. 

“The nonprofit sector is tough work. Program development and program monitoring requires skills. Even if you get a federal, state or foundation grant, you have to know how to carry it out and that requires a trained staff.”

The Opportunity Knocks engagement study also encourages leaders to define career paths, show intent to promote from within, and take an active interest in each employee’s development. By taking an interest in an employee’s well-being and advancement, leaders show commitment to the employee beyond their role in the organization.

“I don’t know how your mission can be achieved without that guidance or direction from qualified, trained staff members. The nonprofit sector is tough work.”

Juanita Yancey, Georgia Head Start Association

According to Diane Bellem, vice president of the Georgia Training Institute (GTI), a staff support program from GCN member Sheltering Arms, professional development is a concrete way to reduce turnover: “We don’t have a lot of turnover amongst our center directors and lead teachers, largely due to the fact that we provide a lot of opportunity for training and advancement,” said Bellem. “We help teachers go back to school to get their Associates and Bachelor’s Degrees.”

GTI recently took advantage of NU custom training for their center administrators and managers, based in NU’s successful management training program. It brought GCN’s Executive Vice President of Programs Chris Allers and NU Director Lanous Wright to their conference at the Georgia International Conference Center to lead a session titled “Customer Service: Everyday Excellence for Those You Serve.”

Ultimately, nonprofit leaders are tasked with impacting the sector by advancing the skill sets of their employees, who in turn, impact the community. “We live in changing times,” said Bellem. “If you want to be responsive to the community and the people you serve, you definitely need to invest in your employees. Even if people come with degrees or credentials, you still need continuing education in order to stay abreast of what’s going on, and reinforce what you’re doing, as well as learn new things.”

To learn more about Custom & Private Training from Nonprofit University, visit gcn.org/custom or contact our team at [email protected] or 678-916-3081. You can also read the Opportunity Knocks study, Engaging the Nonprofit Workforce.

Kimyetta E. Hayden is communications coordinator at GCN.

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