Your nonprofit’s impact begins with learning. After all, donors, or as Convergent Nonprofit Solutions refers to them, investors, need to learn about your cause before they commit their time or resources to support you. At the same time, your staff members need to pursue continuous learning opportunities to fulfill their roles with confidence.
Building a culture of learning allows your nonprofit to pave the way for stronger, lasting relationships with investors and more productive teams that are ready and eager to work toward your mission. In doing so, your organization can bring in new investors, inspire larger contributions, and maximize its resources to make a greater difference.
To cultivate a culture dedicated to learning at your nonprofit, you’ll need to consider making improvements across various areas of your operations and initiatives. Let’s explore some effective ways you can better engage your investors and staff members through learning.
Inspiring Supporters Through Learning
According to CAF’s World Giving Index Report, more people are donating to nonprofits than ever before, with 35% of the global population making at least one gift in 2021. This makes it all the more important for your organization to figure out how it’ll stand out from similar nonprofits vying for support.
Rather than repeatedly soliciting donations, you’ll need to develop a robust strategy for educating potential investors about your cause and demonstrating why it’s so important. Start creating a learning culture for your nonprofit’s supporters with these ideas:
1. Share individual stories.
Storytelling is a powerful way for your nonprofit to knit a more emotional connection between investors and its cause. While compelling facts and statistics can go a long way toward communicating your need for support, stories allow people to place themselves in your beneficiaries’ shoes and empathize with the challenges they face.
Some stories you could share to highlight your mission include:
- The origins of your nonprofit.
- How a beneficiary overcame difficulties with your nonprofit’s help.
- A volunteer’s experience with your organization.
- An investor’s personal reasons for giving.
- A day in the life of one of your staff members.
Double the Donation’s donor retention guide recommends featuring these stories in a section on your nonprofit’s website, social media posts, weekly newsletter, and blog posts. Just remember to obtain permission first before including someone’s photo or testimonial in your content.
2. Send regular updates.
Your supporters give because they’re invested in your mission. Therefore, they’re not likely to make a gift out of the blue and forget about its impact. Make donating to your nonprofit a fulfilling experience by providing supporters with regular updates about your work. Doing so keeps them educated about your current needs and eager to stay involved.
For instance, if your nonprofit has recently completed its strategic plan for the next few years, share it on your website. Direct your social media followers and email subscribers to review your goals and priorities for the near future. This can help your supporters feel like active participants in your mission and gain a better understanding of your overarching values.
Be open about sharing your organization’s victories and challenges. This transparency demonstrates that you’re committed to making deliberate improvements to increase the overall impact of investors’ gifts and your nonprofit’s work.
3. Host educational events.
By planning a variety of educational events throughout the year, your nonprofit can bring supporters closer to its cause and help them realize the importance of their involvement.
Consider these engaging educational event ideas:
- Live social media Q&A. Directly interact with your nonprofit’s supporters in real time by hosting live social media Q&A sessions. Take this opportunity to strengthen individual relationships by referring to viewers by name and build a sense of community by encouraging them to connect with one another.
- Facility tour. Invite supporters to get a first-hand glimpse of your nonprofit’s impact by organizing tours of your facility or project sites. Consider enlisting the program manager or a passionate volunteer to guide the tour. These tours can be an effective means for cultivating prospective major investors for your nonprofit.
- Advocacy workshops. Encourage supporters to deepen their involvement with your nonprofit by becoming active advocates for your cause. Host workshops that provide participants with the tools, templates, resources, and skills they need to effectively contribute to your organization’s advocacy goals.
Discussing your nonprofit’s cause on a broader scale positions your organization as an authoritative resource and boosts its credibility. This makes it easier for investors to believe you’re capable of creating the impact you’ve set out to achieve.
Empowering Staff Through Learning
While making more of an effort to encourage learning among supporters can lead to increased funds or other resources for your nonprofit, creating a culture of learning within your organization ensures that you make full use of these resources.
1. Assess educational needs.
Everyone, including leadership and board members, should adopt a growth mindset by reading up on the latest trends, attending nonprofit conferences, and filling any gaps in their knowledge. However, since professional development and education require an investment of time and energy, it’s important to pinpoint which areas of learning will best suit your staff members.
To identify educational priorities within your organization, consider:
- Surveying staff members on educational topics of interest and preferred learning methods.
- Determining which areas of your mission could be better explained, incorporated, and acted upon.
- Conducting skills or knowledge assessments to determine which areas need more attention.
- Incorporating discussions about educational goals into performance reviews.
Align these educational needs with your nonprofit’s overall goals and begin taking steps to fulfill those needs. For some specialized areas of learning, you may want to consider reaching out to a nonprofit consultant for support. They have the professional expertise to provide your staff members with the training, knowledge, and best practices they need to excel in their roles.
2. Invest in training resources
Providing continuous education and training is not only essential for your nonprofit’s long-term success, but it’s also a great way to attract new talent. Depending on your priorities and resources, there are various types of resources you can offer staff members, including:
- Shadowing opportunities
- Training program enrollment
- Online courses
Laridae’s nonprofit management training overview highlights the importance of finding training programs and resources created specifically for learners in the nonprofit sector. This ensures that your staff members acquire skills and tools that they can directly apply to their roles and challenges.
3. Celebrate staff learning.
Reinforce your nonprofit’s culture of learning by celebrating educational achievements. For example, you can award certificates and recognize staff members in your newsletter when they complete a training program or course. Additionally, you might even encourage them to host a quick food-for-thought session to share what they’ve learned with team members.
Measure and highlight the impact of staff learning to keep everyone motivated in the long run. Consider sending out follow-up assessments and surveys to better gauge the effectiveness of a training program or course.
Part of developing a culture of learning involves seeking constant improvements to your nonprofit’s approaches and processes. Take the time to evaluate the results of your efforts and make adjustments as necessary.
For instance, you might notice that a particular educational event is popular among supporters or a training program is especially impactful for your staff members and prioritize those. Adapting to your investors’ and staff members’ preferences allows you to create a strong, tailored learning culture at your nonprofit.