Take professional development into your own hands


How will you carve out time to learn and reflect? Photo: US Army (Flickr/Creative Commons)

Need professional development, but don’t have a budget for travel or tuition? Here are a bunch of free or relatively affordable upcoming trainings we’ve spotted recently – ones you can join from the comfort of your own desk or couch.

Special thanks to Ben Hastil for his contributions to this roundup.

Telling your organization’s story

Show me the money

  • Grantseeking basics, fundraising planning, nonprofit sustainability…find trainings in these topics and more at your nearest Foundation Center.

Social media

  • Social Media for Social Good events: Heather Mansfield of DIOSA Communications and Nonprofit Tech 2.0 has lined up one-day intensive social media trainings in conjunction with the launch of her book. They aren’t free, but they do benefit local nonprofits in the host cities.

Become a better manager

  • The Management Center’s upcoming “Managing to Change the World” trainings are sold out, but you can access tons of free worksheets to strengthen your delegation skills, hiring practices, organizational culture, and more.
Dig out of debt
  • This might fit better under “personal” than “professional” development, but hey – lots of us have loans to pay, and I’d bet that those take a toll on our overall morale, and thus our work performance. If your new year’s resolution was to conquer your student loans, check out Heather Jarvis and her resources for Public Service Loan Forgiveness in Five Easy Steps.
What else is on your radar?
Of course, attending conferences or more intensive trainings and retreats can also be a way to deepen your skills and knowledge. And after you take advantage of any opportunities like these, it’s important to make space to reflect on how you’ll implement your new skills, as New Organizing Institute pointed out recently.
What do you plan to do in 2012 to ensure you are growing as a professional?

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Headlines: After the 11NTC (Nonprofit Technology Conference)


Panelists from the "Free Agents" session. Photo via Beth Kanter (Flickr/Creative Commons).

Elise and I went to NTEN‘s annual conference in Washington, DC last week. It was great to meet many of you there! Here are some of the takeaways we’ve spotted thanks to the still-buzzing #11NTC Twitter stream

Change doesn’t have to be scary

Online fundraising

Kudos for transparency

Be nice to your tech people

  • Maybe I just have it easy? (Bailey Kasten, Wish You Worked Here). At the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, muses Kasten, “operations and technology have a voice.” She offers some advice to the folks in workplaces where that’s not true.

Storytelling through specific channels

  • DoGooder Video Awards Announced at NTC! (Maddie Grant, SocialFish.org). Thinking of incorporating video into your organization’s communications strategy? Check out the winners of “best thrifty organization video,” “best small organization video,” and more categories.
  • Using Location Based Services for Your Nonprofit (John Haydon, SocialBrite) recaps a session about how services like FourSquare can be included in your strategy to raise awareness and money.

And these are just the beginning!

Are you blogging about your 11NTC experience? Leave a comment below with a link!

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Book Review: An Introduction to Brandraising

“Brandraising” blends fundraising with marketing to outline a new way of thinking about a nonprofit’s communications with the public. Brandraising (a new book by Sarah Durham) is an easy to read, easy to use guide to bringing this new way of thinking to bear on the work of all types of public benefit organizations.

Brandraising (the concept) is building “a strong framework for communication” that rests securely on vision, mission and values — “the core elements that direct all aspects of the organization’s work.” The difference between brandraising and other guides to nonprofit communications is apparent from the start when Durham adds to the list of core elements four more concepts: objectives, audiences, positioning and personality.

Most planning sessions for nonprofits likely get as far as objectives, though considering that sort of detail when thinking about organizational communications may be rare. Rarer still, Durham thinks, is attention to the audiences to be reached, the position to be achieved, and the personality that best suits the organization’s goals. What adjectives describe the way the organization wants to be perceived? What is the big idea the organization wants to be known for? Who, exactly, needs to hear and understand the organization’s messages?

The book offers straightforward and practical exercises for working out the answers to questions like these. My personal favorite: Make a list on a whiteboard of all the other organizations that might be seen by the public as working with more or less the same goals as those that guide your work. Write your tagline or identity statement at the top just to the right of the list. And then make a check mark next to the name of any other organization that could comfortably use those same words to describe itself. Too many check marks? Your message is going to come across as blurred; key members of the public may all too easily confuse your work with that of other organizations that approach the goals differently.

Clarifying the key components of identity so they can be communicated accurately is half of the brandraising project. The other half—and maybe the harder half—is aligning communications efforts in every part of the work across all “the channels and tools through which audiences connect with the organization.” Too often, Durham suggests, organizations invest too little in developing a framework for communication that can be, and is, used by everyone consistently and comfortably.

Many people who work in nonprofits, Durham observes, are not engaged with the idea of marketing as an important contributor to organizational success. Brandraising serves well as an introduction, building on nonprofit examples and respecting the distinctiveness of nonprofits’ work.

You can order Brandraising from Amazon.com with this link; a small royalty will be paid that helps support this site.

For an advanced exploration of the idea, look at the 7th edition of Phillip Kotler’s classic (and expensive) Strategic Marketing for Non-Profit Organizations.

[This blog entry appeared on an older version of Idealist; any broken links are a result of having re-launched our site in Fall 2010.]

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