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What professional development is right for you?

As we prepare for 2017, I know many of you are thinking about planning for next year and (perhaps) using year-end funding for additional training. There are numerous training organizations, companies, and professional instructors who provide professional development in the areas of nonprofit management, strategic planning, and governance. Which opportunities are the best fit for you? 

You have much to consider, but let's start by examining some options that align with your need to enhance specific skills and interests.
  1. Does your organization require you to have training in a particular field or on a specific topic? The answer to this question will impact the options that you have, as there may not be flexibility in the opportunities you can pursue. However, the training will likely be subsidized by the organization so that you can secure fee-based training.
  1. Do you have funds available to support training? Reputable training bodies such as CharityHowTo, Thompson Grants Compliance, Management Concepts, and Foundation Center offer high-quality, free or fee-based, in-person and online professional development. Before you register, you should have a budget in mind as this will dictate the offerings available to you.
  1. Have you prioritized what you are looking to gain from additional training? When you think about the skills you seek to improve, weigh the potential impact of learning this skill in your daily work and whether this will improve your performance. Personally, I am interested in learning more about donor cultivation in 2017. When I research training in the coming year, I will seek out opportunities that align with this topic (as I did at the GPA Annual Conference in Atlanta last month). Take advantage of your limited time and focus on training content that will have the greatest return on investment.
  1. Are you trying to obtain a certification? Many certifications require continuing education to maintain certification. If you are seeking a certification (i.e., GPC, CFRE, PMP), make sure you think about these requirements, as it will move you closer to meeting your certification goal. While you might be interested in a topic, conduct a cost-benefit analysis to see if the “nice to have” training is more beneficial vs. the “need to know” or “need to have to complete certification requirements” topics.
  1. Have you researched the reputation and quality of the training entity? Not all training is created equal. To maximize the impact of your professional development, do your research. Reach out to other grants and nonprofit professionals, read reviews to assess instructional quality, ask for references and feedback from previous sessions, and seek out the credentials of the professionals and training entity providing the content. This research will help to ensure you have the most beneficial experience (and do not waste money if the training is fee-based).
I know that it is difficult to squeeze in extra training when there are many other items on your to-do list. However, we all have something to learn (regardless of how long you have been in your position). Now, who is ready to gain some more skills? You will be glad you did!
What trainings are right for you in 2017?