Learning to Grow: Training Opportunities and Building Capacity

July 01, 2010
By  Jean B MorisseauKuni

Change is never easy, and organizations undertaking growth or capacity-building activities may find varying levels of stress and frustration among staff. This is especially true with staff that are unaware of the reasons and need for the change or may be unprepared to undertake new opportunities. Clear communication from management with staff and funders, along with providing educational opportunities for staff, are key components to any organizational growth strategy.

According to sbn.com (Smart Business News), employees need to feel that they “own” projects and are an important part of the organization, project implementation and success celebration. Organizations simply enjoy a higher level of success when they empower their staff by providing them with educational opportunities and integrating them into new projects.

Nonprofits seeking community development educational opportunities for staff or wishing to provide their administration with new management skills will find a wide variety of opportunities. From large training workshops to one-hour webinars, options and venues abound through colleges, universities, university extension programs and community development organizations. In addition, state and local governments often offer training programs to address relevant community development issues and topics. Choosing which institute or workshop is best, however, can be challenging when you take into consideration budgets, staffing issues, travel, time and organizational need.

Large national training organizations tend to provide a wide variety of training options and tracks, including week-long institutes that are held in large cities across the country, online training courses that allow participants to work at their own pace, and single- and half-day webinars on an emerging issue. Regional training organizations normally opt for one annual training institute as well as periodic workshops and webinars on timely topics. Certification is generally available through regional training and national training, and both offer scholarships for eligible organizations.

State and local organizations also provide training opportunities that are generally topical and structured to address issues and needs in the communities that they serve. One advantage that state and local organizations have is that they can quickly build specialized training to help nonprofits resolve issues or provide information on an emerging concern within their geographic area. Local workshops also provide a wonderful platform where organizations can meet their peers and build collaboration across sectors and organizations to resolve local issues.

“Grow, change or die,” are the words that Mark Pinsky, president and CEO of the Opportunity Finance Network, uses when speaking to nonprofits contemplating capacity-building activities. These are simple impact words to help nonprofits remember that capacity building is all part of business—that they need to evolve to remain relevant, which includes having a good action plan and empowering staff with educational and growth opportunities.

Following is a small sampling of the plethora of national and regional training opportunities that are available to nonprofits and others interested in community development.

Bridges is a regular review of regional community and economic development issues. Views expressed are not necessarily those of the St. Louis Fed or Federal Reserve System.

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