Affordable Sources for Professional Learning

Sep 25, 2017 | Management and Leadership, Philanthropy Journal, Resources

While the concept of investing in more education may seem unmanageable to nonprofit employees, FleishmanHillard offers some free and easy-to-access resources that arm you with further knowledge to better serve both those around you and yourself.

Special to the Philanthropy Journal

By FleishmanHillard Staff

This article is part of an ongoing series with FleishmanHillard, a full-service global public relations agency. The firm specializes in multiple channels and industries including nonprofit, consumer, healthcare and technology. The group is driven by a mission to go beyond for clients and to consistently develop bold work that creates value and changes conversations. In line with this mission, members of the FleishmanHillard team will continue to share their expertise and insights on topics that touch both the professional and personal lives of those in the workforce.  

With back to school season in full swing, learning is top of mind for many, and while you may have a degree or meet the educational requirements for your position, don’t shut the books just yet. To excel and deliver measurable results, continued learning is a must for all professionals – perhaps especially nonprofit professionals given the multiple hats and jobs one’s tasked with in a day!

Those in the field of philanthropy are accustomed to serving others, and earmarking little time for self-development. While the concept of investing in more education may seem unmanageable, below are some free and easy-to-access resources that arm you with further knowledge to better serve both those around you and yourself.

Source: Local Nonprofit Conferences

Recommended by:  Vanessa Donohue, Account Supervisor 

Cost: Range based on memberships

Learn from your peers. Few people understand the daily challenges presented in the nonprofit world better than the people who sit right next to you or ones who have sat where you are today. Attending conferences in your area designed for and focused on nonprofits will offer advice that you can directly apply to your position and organization. If speakers are local, reach out and connect with them after the event. Being in the same area and field gives you an ally and one you can carve out time to grab coffee with as a way to re-energize and inspire one another. 


Source: Nonprofit Tech for Good

Cost: Varies  

Learn how advances in tech can help further your organization’s goals! Heather Mansfield, founder of the site, offers an array of trainings that range from live events to webinars all full of easy-to-understand information, news and resources related to nonprofit technology, online communications and mobile and social fundraising. The site includes the latest news on how each social channel, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc. is tapping into options for nonprofits, arming professionals with ways to utilize them for their organization’s needs and desired outcomes.


Source: Nonprofit Ready

Cost: FREE

Learn from anywhere with free professional online courses, specifically tailored to the needs of working in a nonprofit. This site notes that you can take the courses from your home or favorite café, which also makes it easy to squeeze in around busy schedules. Whether you’re just starting off in the nonprofit industry and want to nail down the fundamentals or you need to dig deeper into a specific vertical, there are hundreds of free courses to choose from! Courses include communications, volunteerism and engagement, management and leadership, and much more.


Source: Take a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course)

Recommended by: Matt See, Senior Vice President

Cost: FREE

Learn like you’re attending an Ivy League school. These courses offer the opportunity to access training from institutions like Harvard, Cal Berkeley and MIT, as well as powerhouses businesses like Microsoft. Whether you are looking to pick up a new skill or brush up an old one, with more than 1,300 courses there’s something for everyone.


Source: Skillshare

Recommended by: Alex Baumann, Managing Supervisor

Cost: FREE (or ~$100/year for additional video access)

Learn how to do virtually anything! This website was founded to close the professional skills gap and provide universal access to high-quality learning. Users can access more than 17,000 classes ranging from design, business, technology, crafts, writing and more.

The tools provide an amazing resource for anyone looking to expand their skillset – whether for work or pleasure – and feature tips like designing your own website and email marketing, to chopping veggies. Nonprofit professionals will want to check out main courses like excel, creative leadership, Facebook advertising and analytics, while enjoying tips on how to make the perfect pot of coffee on the side. 


Source: Public Relations and Marketing Industry Webinars 

Recommended by: Jayme Owen, Senior Vice President

Cost: FREE

Learn and stay current on industry trends through free public relations and marketing tools. There’s no requirement to have an account with Cision to access their webinars or resources, which include white papers, tip sheets and best practices. The resource section offers a wealth of content on everything from “how to promote your event” to “creating high-quality press release content.” Time is money, so spend less searching for the right contacts with Cision’s top lists of media outlets and contacts for a variety of industries and beats. Other industry groups like Marketing Week and eMarketer offer free sessions on topics like “how to manage a crisis in the digital age” and “Key Digital Trends for 2017.”


Source: Look inside your own organization

Cost: Varies based on memberships and source  

Learn what you already have access to as a member of professional industry organizations. The first step is to make an internal ask— many organizations are members of industry groups so that’s always a good starting point. For the public relations/communications industry, groups like PRSA or PR News provide members with access to online courses and webinars. But also make sure to ask internally if your organization offers professional development – HR is always a good place to start!


Source: Consume Information from Diverse Media Sources

Recommended by: Anuj Baveja, Senior Vice President

Cost: FREE

Learn to think outside the box by staying current. Set aside 15 minutes to read the news each day, and do so from a variety of sources to obtain a well-rounded view of what is happening in the world around you, in your industry and in lateral or overlapping industries. This will get you thinking about how your organization fits into the larger conversation and how to better tell your story to external audiences. It also breaks you away from the routine – the echo chamber – and provides you with opposite perspectives that challenge and expand your own perceptions, which can open doors to new donors and volunteers. An easy way to do this is by making Google News your home page. It is customizable to suit your interests, while also automatically pulling content from a wide range of sources and publications. Set it to generate a healthy mix of categories: healthcare, tech, sports, entertainment, politics, local news, etc.  

Finally, read the comments on news stories of interest to you and your organization for insights and trends Smart and savvy news-consumers – who also happen to be your volunteers, donors, industry colleagues, etc. – often point out inaccuracies or call attention aspects or views that might be missing from a story.

FleishmanHillard has provided these recommendations based on our collective experience and not based on any existing, preferred relationships with any of the above mentioned groups.

FleishmanHillard is a global integrated communications and public relations agency with over 80 offices in 30 countries. To read more articles in the nonprofit lifestyle series, click here

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