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Determining Non-profit staff training needs

I’ve spent a lot of time providing professional development workshops (virtually, mostly) to a variety of groups and organizations this past year. Some of these groups have clear training goals and workshop topics in mind, while others are driven by the feeling that they should provide these opportunities for their staff members (or are mandated to do so by funders or licensing entities) but just don’t know what subjects would be beneficial or of interest.

Below are some guidelines and questions to ask yourself and your team as you develop a staff training calendar by doing a brief internal needs assessment.

1) What funder mandates might you be working with? For example, some funders may require you to provide training to your staff that is directly related to the programs or services the grant is funding such as trauma informed care, harm reduction or DEI best practices.

2) Do you have any licensing bodies that require all staff to be trained in certain areas? These often include CPR/First Aid, Universal Precautions or Mandated Reporter trainings.

3) Do you have programs or services that are population specific or are you working with a new population that your staff may benefit from learning more about? Training topics might include working with LGBTQ youth, care coordination for seniors or veteran housing initiatives.

4) Are there areas in which skill building might be necessary, especially for less experienced staff members? Examples might include case management 101, motivational interviewing or grant management.

5) Can you identify gaps in knowledge or areas of interest for continued education? This is generally determined through conversations in supervisory meetings, observations in team meetings, staff surveys or small focus groups and subject matter can vary widely.

While reflecting on these questions, it’s important to keep in mind that many training topics will overlap with one another or can fit into multiple categories. Additionally, professional development needs change over time as your staff turns over, your funding changes or the landscape in which you work shifts (COVID!). The questions above offer some guidance that I hope can be useful in getting started, though it certainly isn’t a comprehensive list or process for every organization as each will have its own needs and unique characteristics to consider.

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