Charity Digital – Topics – How to train and develop staff on a budget


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Charities need to get creative when training staff on a budget. While it may seem that the British economy is in the doldrums and that the cost-of-living crisis is catching up, learning and development doesn’t have to be cut completely.


Remember, not training an employee can actually be more expensive. Traininglms, in their survey of remote workers, found that: “72% of employees would stay with a company in the long run if they got training opportunities.”


Thus, the cost of recruiting new staff is often many more times more costly than training existing workers.


Push the boundaries of what you can do on a shoestring budget by recycling existing ideas and thinking outside the box. Here are our top tips on how to train staff on a small budget.



Decide on a plan


One of the best ways to stretch a charity budget is to plan. Create a learning and development plan that spans a year or two and works towards a goal. Both staff and managers should agree on what the spend is for. From there, estimate the time and cost of funding.


Top tip: Use the plan to justify the objectives and negotiate for funding.



Book it early


Early bird bookings are available for conferences, courses, and events. To maximise your budget, don’t delay. Take advantage of the savings.


Top Tip: Plan a schedule of events.



Job shadowing


Benefitting both the coach and trainee, job shadowing is a low-cost way of growing staff. The coach develops leadership by proposing an upskilling program where the trainee enhances their prowess. CharityJob also raises the point that job shadowing increases internal networking opportunities.


Top tip: Pair job shadowing with mentorship and you have a full-blown program for long-term development.



Leverage sector resources


Invaluable to so many organisations, the NCVO offers very low-cost training to those in the sector. Ranging from board training to theme-based learning, the organisation runs both in-person and virtual events. CAF also includes a significant cache of free resources.


Top tip: Don’t over think it – download the materials and see what you can use.



Go for pro-bono sessions


Top lawyers, accountants, bankers, and consultants love to do a bit of pro-bono work. Whether it’s to come in and speak or simply be an expert volunteer, use their time. Lawyers, in particular, hold free information sessions on new regulation and invite charities to networking cocktails. It’s an opportunity connect and learn.


Top tip: Develop multiple relationships so that you can have your pick of guest speakers and trainers.



Ask for discounts


You don’t ask you don’t get, goes the saying. When speaking to The Guardian, Ruth Webster, head of talent and leadership at the NSPCC, says: “The other thing I have learnt over the years is to be really shameless about asking for discounts, and negotiating really hard. People know that times are tough”. When speaking to service providers, ask for all the freeware and options.


Top tip: Use up all the free and discounted items before going behind the pay wall. Licenses, additional users, trials, all help to keep costs down.



Switch-up the delivery


Charity workers are used to hybrid working. Training is no different. To develop staff on a budget, include in-person and digital elements. Digital ones often come at a lower cost. Remember, digitally upskilling workers is equally as important as in-person delivery.


Top tip: Hold group training sessions over one-to-ones custom exercises.



Go freelance


Hiring freelancers to teach staff can help organisations stay on budget. The rationale here is that freelancers have the flexibility to adjust their fees whereas large corporations may not. Check out Fiverr and Blume for the expertise out there.


Top tip: Do your diligence. Make sure the freelancer is actually an expert by asking for a portfolio of work or references.



Seek internal help


Your organisation may already have the professional skills for training. Ahead of hiring an external party, check whether there’s someone who already has the know-how formally, or informally. Have them run all, or part of the programme to save on costs.


Top tip: Investigate whether there’s a staff member who has a hobby they would like to teach.



Partner with like-minded organisations


For large training endeavours, seek out a collaboration. TPP, the recruitment firm says: “banding together with sister organisations or other charities to offer joint courses will bring down your training cost per head.  Or do a skills swap with another organisation, where you share knowledge and experience between you.”


Top tip: Commit to a single session first, over a series so you can test the partnership.

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