Nonprofit professionals are used to wearing many hats while working for their organization—from serving as event planners to social media managers to volunteer coordinators. At times, however, nonprofit team members will encounter projects and tasks that they don’t have prior experience in handling. What do they do then?
While some recommend that nonprofits outsource specialized work, such as leveraging a marketing agency to take charge of creating collateral, not all organizations have the budget to do so. That’s where educational resources come in. These resources provide nonprofit professionals, such as yourself, with a lower-cost way to develop their skills and grow professionally.
In this guide, we’ll go over the most helpful resources for nonprofit professionals by discussing each of their unique benefits and drawbacks. Let’s get started!
1. Blog Posts
In this age of technology, you likely look toward blog posts and other websites whenever you’re out of your element, including searching for new fundraising ideas or event planning tips. Blog posts are a top educational resource because they serve as a first stop for professionals seeking more information about specific nonprofit topics. Let’s take a closer look at the benefits and drawbacks of this resource:
Here are some of the benefits of blog posts as an educational resource:
- Easily accessible. Blog posts are accessible to everyone through search engines such as Google or Bing. It’s super convenient for you to type in the right keywords and click on the relevant blog posts, empowering you to kickstart your learning journey.
- Lively visuals. Authors of blogs often embed multimedia elements into their posts, such as video walk-throughs, resulting in a more engaging and academically enriching experience for the reader. For example, an all-text blog post describing how to apply for Google grants might be difficult to parse. But if it’s broken up with relevant images and videos, then the information becomes much easier to digest.
- Cost-effective. For the most part, access to blog posts is free, making this option extremely cost-effective. This is extremely valuable for nonprofit professionals who may not have access to a learning budget or stipend.
Though blog posts have a variety of benefits for nonprofit professionals, they also have some drawbacks.
Here are some of the drawbacks of blog posts as an educational resource:
- Questionable authority. Depending on which blog you’re looking at, it may be difficult to gauge the authority of the writer. Not everyone who writes nonprofit content is involved in the industry, making it crucial for you to vet blog authors and websites before you take their word as fact.
- Varying depth. Blog posts may vary in quality and length even on the same blogroll. Many posts may cover surface-level topics such as fundraising, but may not dive more deeply into actionable tips your organization can take today. For example, a post could cover the benefits of hybrid fundraising events, but not how to organize a hybrid event.
- Unstructured content. A blogroll will likely cover many different topics rather than go in-depth on a single topic. If you’re specifically interested in one topic, this resource’s format can hinder your learning, as you may need to access multiple blogs to gain the depth of knowledge you seek.
If you’re looking for a surface-level overview of a nonprofit topic, then blog posts are a great educational resource for you due to their accessible and cost-effective nature. However, if you’re looking for more robust educational materials, then consider one of the next resources.
Elevate Nonprofit explains that books can impart a wealth of knowledge and inspire your organization’s fundraising strategy. They are an invaluable resource to learn new strategies and practices and glean insights from the past. However, like blog posts, they have their unique benefits and drawbacks.
Here are some of the benefits of books as an educational resource:
- Depth of knowledge. Books usually thoroughly cover a single topic, allowing you to gain the depth of knowledge you seek. For example, if you’re researching how to boost event revenue, a book might cover common pitfalls, best practices, and even top event ideas for generating revenue.
- Wide range of topics. Although books generally dive deeply into one subject, that doesn’t mean that you’re out of luck if you’re researching multiple subjects. There are millions of unique books out there on a variety of topics, making it easy for you to find one that suits your needs. Plus, books give you access to many different perspectives, as it’s common to read two books on the same topic with very different viewpoints.
- Variety of formats. While you may be thinking of the traditional paperback or hardback, books come in a variety of formats to fit your needs. If you’re looking for a way to maximize the value of your commute time, for example, you could purchase audiobooks and listen to them as you drive.
There’s a reason why books are an enduring learning resource for all types of industries. However, they also come with their drawbacks.
Here are some of the drawbacks of books as an educational nonprofit resource:
- Outdated information. Once a book is published, it could take months or years for new editions to come out. Depending on the age of the book, you may come across outdated information, making it difficult to use this resource to learn about new and trendy topics.
- Difficult to find specific information. If you’re looking to learn about one specific topic, you might find that some books cover many miscellaneous subjects that are irrelevant to your nonprofit’s situation. This is especially true if you’re seeking information on a niche or specific topic.
- Single perspective. Since most books have just one author, books often suffer from having a single perspective. Aside from personal biases, this can be an issue if the author does not have direct experience with your situation. For example, if you’re a small nonprofit, the advice of an author who has only worked in large organizations may not be applicable.
If you’re looking for a nonprofit educational resource on age-old topics such as starting fundraisers or appealing for donations, books are a great way to find the information you seek. However, if you’re seeking more specific advice or knowledge on trends that are just cropping up, then you may want to consider a different type of resource.
Nonprofit conferences are large gatherings of nonprofit professionals and philanthropic-minded business professionals. They are an excellent way to gain knowledge, advance professional development, and acquire the training you need to excel in your field. Plus, they cover a wide range of key nonprofit areas to help your organization grow, from marketing to donor stewardship. Let’s learn more about the specific benefits and drawbacks of conferences.
Here are some of the benefits of attending a nonprofit conference:
- Newest information. One of the greatest selling points of conferences is that they often cover the newest information and trends occurring in the industry. If you aim to stay up-to-date with cutting-edge best practices, conferences are a great place to gain that knowledge.
- Networking. Another benefit of conferences that most other nonprofit educational resources don’t offer is networking. Conferences are a gathering of like-minded individuals, making them great opportunities to connect with other professionals who you might work with or ask for mentorship. Plus, Getting Attention advises to connect with business professionals as well, as these relationships can lead to future corporate sponsorships.
- Capacity building. Capacity building is defined as improving your organization’s ability to serve your beneficiaries. This involves developing competencies and skills that make you and your nonprofit more effective and sustainable. Conferences offer workshops and panels that will point you and your nonprofit in the right direction.
What makes conferences such great educational resources is that it’s a concentrated learning experience—you receive tons of new knowledge that you can then bring back and apply to your nonprofit. However, that’s not to say that they don’t have their drawbacks.
Here are some of the drawbacks of conferences as an educational resource:
- Expensive. Conferences are by far the most expensive educational resource in this article. From travel costs to ticket prices, attending a conference can quickly become unaffordable, making it difficult for professionals from smaller organizations to attend.
- Stressful. Conferences are jam-packed with tons of activities, panels, and workshops. While that’s great for learning-focused professionals, it can also be very stressful to manage your schedule and plan out everything you want to experience. Plus, there might be event rescheduling or cancellations to contend with.
- Implementing learning. After the conference is over and you return to normal life at your nonprofit, it can be difficult to implement the practices or strategies that you learned. There may be logistical challenges or even a lack of motivation, for example.
If you can afford it, attending conferences is a great way to expand your knowledge of the nonprofit industry and keep up to date with trends. However, if your budget is limited, that doesn’t mean that you’re unable to access the information conferences offer. Look out for conferences held in a hybrid or virtual format, as they drastically reduce costs by removing travel expenses.
Aside from these three, there are a variety of other nonprofit educational resources available to the curious professional, including webinars and podcasts. If, after reading this guide, you believe that none of these top types of resources are the best fit for you, don’t be afraid to do more research and seek out the knowledge you need. After all, you know what’s best for your personal development and what you need to better support your nonprofit’s beneficiaries!