More than any sector, the not for profit sphere has the most trouble with organisation and upskilling, due to stretched training budgets and the need for total transparency in its spending. Not for profits also often have to deal with problems that most organisations don’t, such as the uncertain status of volunteers and members within the organisation, who can complicate matters due to location and availability. Here are some ways in which e-learning can help solve those problems.
Due to their structure, non profits and charities often rely heavily on volunteers or paid members to keep the organisation running. These stakeholders can be spread out geographically, and are not always available, so encouraging co-operation with paid staff and keeping them on message can be difficult for head office. They may even be located in different countries, and not have English as a first language. E-learning can help break down those barriers, by providing a central online system for these stakeholders to use that can be accessed from anywhere, often in multiple languages. A variety of course types from modules to video sections can be hosted on separate software or via the existing intranet, so they don’t even have to go out of their way to access it.
The ability to manage learning from afar in this way helps maintain the connection between head office and far-flung branches, so that the stakeholders feel supported, and so that they aren’t able to steer their sides of the organisation too far off course.
Another area in which non profits can struggle is in their IT infrastructure. Charities and membership organisations are under tremendous pressure to spend as little on their administration side as possible, with as much money as can be spared going to the cause or investment in the members. As a result, spending on essentials like IT can often suffer. Luckily, e-learning packages use minimal IT infrastructure, and can even be found in fully managed packages that take the responsibility out of your hands. Thanks to cloud technology, everything from backups to storage can be held externally, without the need for server rooms or permanent IT staff on the payroll. A managed service will also keep your bandwidth high and your service ticking along smoothly, so there’s no fear it will let you down.
As a result of this, cloud e-learning solutions are completely scalable, so you can have as few accounts or as many as you need – with as much or as little course material as you want. Then, if you need to expand, it’s easy to add more accounts and more material, and to beef up your bandwidth and security as your operation grows.
Not all e-learning is about training. Within non profit organisations there is often a need to rapidly communicate with the whole organisation, especially if the purpose of the organisation is politically sensitive, and rapid communication about changes in policy or news events is necessary. Once again, it can be difficult for a non profit to maintain a full time marketing and communications department to handle internal communications like this, which is why having an e-learning system can be a cost-effective way to achieve the same goals. Setting up daily or weekly briefings via video, webinar or newsletter formats can be a quick and effective way to keep disparate groups up to date on the latest policy positions, and raise awareness of the organisation’s external activity.
Non profit organisations are often a hotbed of change in the latest human development areas of the workplace. Some of the best ideas and movements in HR, such as shared parental leave, flexi time and volunteering leave, start off in the charitable sector – and the use of an e-learning platform can greatly expand an organisation’s ability to give training in these areas. These areas might have a huge amount of existing content, either because they’re so new or because they’re not thought to be profitable enough for commercial organisations, but non profits have the perfect opportunity to make their own content that can effect change from within.
By creating new content and dissembling it via an e-learning system, non profits can greatly expand their horizons when it comes to training and mentoring in areas like human resources, advocacy, life skills and charitable causes, and an e-learning system can allow them to spread this knowledge all over the organisation.
While charities and non-profits are often devoted to a single cause or goal, their paid staff are usually recruited from the wider business world, and may not have much knowledge about the cause they work for. Most of their day job is just like in any business – sorting accounts, conducting marketing, running the IT – and may not bring them into contact with the cause very often. That’s why it’s important to provide them with information and content that keeps them up to date with the latest developments in the industry, so they don’t fall behind. E-learning can also be used to help your own staff, if you commit to designing the content you need to explain these issues to them. You can create engaging and interactive stories that they’ll find useful, and won’t find a chore to complete, but help to teach them the latest they need to know.