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5 ideas for training on a budget

Not for profit organisations have been hard hit by the economic downturn over the last 12 to 18 months, and when savings have to be made, training, learning and development is usually one of the first things to go.  However, this can be a false economy, as slashing funds for training means your staff don’t develop at the same rate and your organisation becomes less efficient and productive.

However, with a bit of creative thinking, there are plenty of ways to provide your employees with training opportunities when funds are tight. Here are TPP’s top ideas for training on a budget:

1.  Use your existing staff

There are several ways to use your current employees to assist with learning and development.  Find out if your members of staff and in-house volunteers have any skills they can communicate to others, and appoint internal mentors to guide the development of more junior staff.  This is particularly useful for ‘soft skills’, such as communications and team management.

You could choose to make one member of staff a ‘champion’ for a particular topic.  Once they have received training, they should then be responsible for communicating their learnings to other employees.  This has the added advantages of cementing the knowledge in the employee champion and creating an in-house support service for queries regarding that topic.

Encouraging your employees to take part in internal secondments or shadowing also allows them the opportunity to learn from other members of staff and teams.

2.  Share resources

You can get more from your training budget by partnering with other organisations.  For example, banding together with sister organisations or other charities to offer joint courses will bring down your training cost per head.  Or do a skills swap with another organisation, where you share knowledge and experience between you.

The Small Charities Coalition facilitates the sharing of skills, experience and expertise between charities, and is completely free to join.  Even larger organisations can benefit through sharing their skills with others.

Investigate any private sector companies your organisation has contact with, such as corporate donors or service suppliers.  Do they run in-house training programmes your staff could piggyback on?  Of course, this training will not be charity-specific but could still be useful.

Encouraging your employees to volunteer or become a trustee in another not for profit organisation is another great way to bring new knowledge and skills into your charity.

3.  Look for freebies

If you know where to look, there can be many opportunities for free training for your staff.  The key is to make the best use of your network of suppliers, partners and membership organisations.

Private sector firms who work with the third sector often offer free training, eg TPP runs a series of professional development seminars, and solicitors’ firms often hold regular legal updates for their clients.  Simply googling “free <topic> training for charities” can usually bring up some interesting possibilities.

Membership organisations, such as the NCVO, IoF or CIPD, often run training sessions that are discounted or free for their member organisations.  Investigate what is included in your membership and make sure you are getting the most from the fees. 

Charity Days and the NFP Academy organise free training for not for profit organisations, and their websites are well worth a visit.  There are also opportunities to get funding for learning and development.

Check out the blog comments below for some free training courses coming up soon.

4.  Investigate online training

The huge growth of the Internet has brought a wealth of resources for online learning and development, often specially aimed at not for profit organisations.

Knowhow NonProfit have a wealth of career development information, most of it completely free of charge, including videos, training courses, articles and discussion forums.

The Media Trust website has a wide range of articles on marketing and communications topics for not for profit organisations.

The Charity Learning Consortium offers a wide range of eLearning for their members.

5.  Get value for money

Sometimes, paying for training is unavoidable, so you need to make sure you get the best possible return on your investment.  Investigate running courses in-house using small training providers or consultants, as this can be less expensive than sending multiple staff members on external courses.  It also has the added advantage that the course content will be tailored for your organisation.

If you are investing with any new suppliers, eg of any new software, make sure that training is included for free or at a discount in the initial agreement.  In addition, when creating new PSLs, why not ask suppliers if they can offer any training as part of the deal?

Summary

As you can see, there are ways to continue to provide opportunities for learning and development to your staff while keeping training budgets tight.  However, your organisations will always need to invest some funds in training to make sure employees remain efficient and productive.

TPP Not for Profit is a big supporter of investing in learning and development, as it helps to keep staff motivated and reduce turnover, and makes your organisation more attractive to new recruits.  Don’t forget to check out our programme of free seminars.

We are also speaking at and sponsoring several upcoming events, such as the IoF Annual Convention.