When Profit Isn’t the Goal: Understanding the Role of eLearning within Nonprofit Organizations
Learning and development plays a central role in business growth and success. eLearning is key to being able to compete and build profitability. However, what about when profit isn’t the goal? What does eLearning have to offer nonprofit organizations? Does it play a role at all? It is just as important for nonprofits as it is for profit-driven companies. Below, we’ll explore what you should know.
What Is eLearning?
First, let’s define eLearning. It’s nothing more than training provided in a digital format through a learning management system, or LMS. It offers immediate access to training material, the ability to create content and reuse it forever (or until it needs to be changed), and numerous other advantages. How do those advantages apply to nonprofit organizations, though?
Training Your Team
No matter what causes your nonprofit supports, your team needs to be trained. It might involve outreach or donor/supporter education. Providing that training can be challenging and quite costly. By nature, nonprofit organizations operate with razor-thin budgets. Every penny counts and must be allocated where it will do the most good for the most people. With eLearning, an initial investment delivers ongoing returns in the form of training materials for every member of the team.
Also, eLearning helps to democratize training in ways that further benefit nonprofit organizations. For instance, as an organization grows, chances are good it will establish teams in geographically dispersed areas – other regions, states, and even other countries. Each of these teams will require training, as well. An eLearning system allows you to deliver training digitally, making the most of your initial investment. Even localizing digital content is cost-effective and ensures that team members receive training that is most relevant to them.
Saves You Time
How much time does your organization lose due to in-person, classroom-based training? Finding a venue if you don’t have one takes time, and then securing it required capital. Creating a class schedule requires time and effort. Purchasing or creating the materials needed takes time and money.
How much time do your team members spend commuting to the training? How might they use that time better? With eLearning, all of this wasted time is eliminated.
All training is delivered digitally, which means your team members and volunteers can complete it from anywhere, so long as they have an Internet connection. They can use their smartphones while on the bus headed home, or even their personal PC, laptop, or tablet computer during their downtime. Your team members and trainers don’t need to spend the time to create ever-changing courses, and you don’t need to hunt for that elusive convenient-yet-affordable training venue, either.
Your organization is only as successful as your team members and volunteers. Without the right skills and knowledge, they cannot reach your intended audience and support your mission. While eLearning enables training across the organization, it also provides you with the means to track successes (and failures).
With these tools, you can home in on what is working and what is not working. Based on that, you can make informed decisions that help the entire organization thrive, ultimately benefiting the cause you support. With that being said, you will need to choose the right learning management system. Different systems offer varying levels of tracking, from overall progress reports to granular, detailed views.
Create Ambassadors and Thought Leaders
An eLearning platform is all about providing training and education. Those are the keys to imbuing your team members and volunteers with knowledge and expertise, which can create ambassadors and thought leaders. When properly trained, your volunteers and members have the confidence to share with others on their own.
They may not even require supporting material to share. They can use their own words to convey your message, educate whomever their immediate audience might be, and gain more recognition for your cause. This allows you to exponentially increase the reach your organization enjoys. It’s similar to how social media marketing works – you share information that educates and informs, and then your followers share it with their audiences, those audience members share, and so on. However, here, your ambassadors and thought leaders are the ones spreading the message to their own audiences.
Reach Beyond Your Organization
While most eLearning platforms are designed for in-house use, they don’t have to serve only your team members. With eLearning, you can improve your outreach efforts with digital offerings that are more accessible to your audience. A personalized email with a link to digital learning materials is a great way to get your message in front of new supporters. Digital materials can be shared far and wide with the click of a mouse button, as well, requiring virtually no time, and no physical effort. This allows your audience to spread your message for you, ensuring that you’re able to benefit from their passion for your cause or mission.
Creating a Branded Platform
For-profit businesses are not the only entities with a brand. Your nonprofit organization also has one. However, chances are good that it’s not embedded in your training materials, and possibly not in your outreach material, either. With eLearning, you get the ability to brand your training materials.
This goes much, much farther than ensuring that your organization’s name and logo appear front and center. You have the opportunity to tailor all the content of your training and outreach materials so that they support your mission and help you reach your goal. You can align your messaging with your culture, your ethics, your values, and much more.
As you can see, eLearning offers a lot to nonprofits and can play many roles. It is not an exaggeration to say that the right LMS and the right eLearning material can make or break a nonprofit’s success. From reducing expenditures and saving money to democratizing training and even improving your ability to reach a wider audience, the benefits are compelling.