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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How does your organization recharge?

Last week we were very fortunate to be able to bring together our whole staff for a retreat in one of our home cities: Portland, OR.

Almost the whole team.

Before the retreat, we laid out seven goals. They included: Break out of our normal day-to-day work and recharge; challenge ourselves to think in new ways and learn new things; celebrate our successes; reflect on the past four months; look ahead at the next four; go in-depth on topics and projects that have organization-wide significance; be together and have fun!

    A typical day in Portland: our site developers look at a list of upcoming projects in order to prioritize them.


    On the final morning of the retreat, we got out of the office and into the fresh air. (Pictured: Mike, Craig, Josh, Minnie, and Enzo.)

We surveyed the whole staff ahead of time to get input on the agenda and goals. People from every team led sessions on everything from knowledge sharing to agile software development to volunteer recruitment and appreciation.

Amy, facilitator extraordinaire, helped us develop ground rules for the whole retreat; Josh's wiki-like brain was put to the test during a trivia game.

Other highlights included visits from Holly Ross of NTEN and Suzanne Bader of Mosaic Consulting. Thank you both for your time and wisdom – you definitely helped us with the second goal, “challenge ourselves to think in new ways and learn new things”!

During a break, Diana even found time to teach her fellow Community Moderator, Kim, to ride a bike. Talk about being together and having fun:

Go Kim go!

Now that the retreat is over, we have a ton of planning and work to do – and that includes reflection about how to make future in-person gatherings even more effective.

What does your organization do to reconnect? If you organize staff retreats, I’d love to hear…

  • Is the emphasis on big visioning, nitty-gritty work and decisions, or something else?
  • Does your staff facilitate it, or do you rely on others to help lead your reflection and planning?
  • What other things do you take into account?

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How to retain top techie talent

Recently, our nonprofit careers mastermind Amy Potthast wrote a piece called Seven Tips for Techies in a Nonprofit Job Interview for the NTEN blog. (If you’re trying to break into nonprofit work, it’s a great read even if you’re not a techie.)

When we tweeted the link yesterday, @SponsorChange tweeted back to ask if we could also offer strategies that nonprofits can use to retain “top techies and interns.”


Why yes, yes we can.

I shared the question with Amy and with Hannah Kane, who co-directs our website team. Hannah’s reply:

  • Pay competitive salaries
  • Provide professional development opportunities (e.g. technical conferences)
  • For web developers: Consider implementing an 80/20 program where 20% of the developers’ time is spent on projects they’re personally interested in. I like Kiva’s “Innovation Iteration” model.
  • Include technologists at the management level

Amy also pointed out that our web team appreciates “Donuts…massages…and strong project management including respect and willingness to listen to limitations.”

And I would add “have really good hiring practices!” to that list; you’re probably going to have a hard time retaining someone if you’re not confident that you hired the right person. Read NTEN’s Finding the Right People: Strategies for Effective IT Hiring (or their book, Managing Technology to Meet Your Mission…or their articles on planning…)

What about you? How do you communicate with and show appreciation for the techies who help your organization run?

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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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