Why Continual Training Matters to Your Nonprofit's Community

Learn how continual training can benefit your nonprofit's community.

“An earthquake hit…at the same time as a snowstorm…right when the floodwaters came over the wall.”

That’s how a nonprofit professional described how the Great Pandemic of 2020 impacted their organization.

And here’s the hardest thing to do after all of that: step back and take a deep breath. It’s time to think about re-training your staff and volunteers.

Now, you might be thinking—Training? Really? But there are bigger things to get done!

Unfortunately, the past year drew a big, deep line across most of our lives. How many times have you said, “before the pandemic, we did this…we planned that…we had those,” and more?

Whether we’re beyond the pandemic remains to be seen. Regardless, you can’t expect anything to be the same, or even revert to whatever “normal,” you had before. You need to evaluate where you stand in relation to your mission and those you served before, during, and after. 

That’s exactly why training should be one of your top priorities—because nothing is the same as “before.” The new world needs new skills—and probably some reminders of old ones that were left behind.

But how can you know which skills and strategies to prioritize and better understand their purpose in the overall scope of your mission?

Let’s start by answering these questions.

Are you serving the same people? 

The pandemic may have drastically changed the people you serve. Sure, some may have left, but for more and more organizations, the load increased—and probably not from the same demographic you served earlier. 

Perhaps people who considered themselves to be “above” the need got a reality check. Or maybe another organization folded and you’re getting their clients in addition to your own. It could be that another organization received critical funding that you didn’t, and were able to expand their programming as a result, thus shrinking your client base. Regardless of the why, it’s important to understand if and how the demand for your services are changing in a post-pandemic world.

Is your service delivery the same as before? 

The pandemic forced a lot of creativity in service delivery. Can you go back to the old ways? Probably not—at least not 100%. Things like video visits, contactless services, and delivered goods really made life convenient for a lot of people—and they don’t want to give them up. Some of your new methods could also be less expensive and just as effective—allowing you to serve more people better, and in less time. 

Did your workforce transition well to a work-at-home model? 

Over the last year, many of your staff have likely adopted a remote working approach. Now, some may not want to return to the traditional office setting, whether for convenience, safety, or entirely different reasons. 

You made your technology and your staffing situation work because it was necessary—and temporary. Are your management and human resources staff up to the task of leading a staff that works remotely, or in a hybrid home and office combination, when it’s not a short-term solution?

What about your funding? 

Some funding evaporated. Other sources became more competitive. Still more transitioned into entirely new programs. 

For example, before last year, chances are you never even considered hosting a virtual event. Now that you’re “back,” do you wholly abandon the format, even if it did just as well and cost you less? Each revenue source needs evaluation and new ones considered.

Will your marketing be the same?

A lot of marketing for nonprofits relies on their physical presence in a community. When you shut down your office, the street festivals were cancelled and the social clubs went dark, and all of that went away. 

So how did you make up for it? Did you push more into social media? Did your emails get more frequent? Are you ready to keep that up, while getting back into what you used to do? Do you need a new “we’re back!” marketing push to inform clients, donors, and the community at large? Marketing has shifted in the last year and it’s not likely to return to its “usual” set of best practices anytime soon.

What about your volunteers?

Let’s not forget that volunteers aren’t immune from your organization’s adjustments, either.  Just like paid staff, many volunteers worked from home. Are you now looking to get them back on-site, or continue to focus on remote volunteer opportunities? How about a volunteer’s motivation? Was volunteering a social experience? Do you need to give that back, regardless of the greater efficiency of off-site volunteerism?

Many organizations have seen an increase in volunteer availability as a result of the pandemic and other societal challenges we’ve faced in the last year. The way you manage your volunteers will play a huge role in determining whether they’ll continue to take part in your organization going forward.

What does all of this have to do with training your nonprofit’s staff? 

As Winston Churchill said as the United Nations was forming, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.”

Now is a great opportunity to evaluate exactly what skills your staff needs to forge a successful post-pandemic path for your nonprofit. Each area of your work, and each person who contributes to those areas, needs to examine what’s changed and how they get up to speed as fast as they can to work within that change. 

This is also a great time to change how you view continuing education. Too many nonprofits (and businesses, too) served up education like a perk. Going away to a conference was an unofficial pseudo-vacation, even if just for a morning. 

You can’t afford that anymore, in attitude, money, or results. Besides, along with work-at-home, nonprofit training and education have changed, too. There’s been an explosion of affordable and widely available online training resources. Conferences and in-person seminars, when they’re offered, will be expensive luxuries. Besides, you need your team trained now, not in six months when a seminar is offered nearby. 


The aftermath of the pandemic is a totally unique experience for nearly every nonprofit. Few, if any, in your organization will have all the skills and information they’ll need to carry out their part in your recovery. 

The good news is that there doesn’t need to be a top-down training prescription for each staff member and volunteer. Each person needs to evaluate how their job has changed in your post-pandemic world, then recommend how to train-up for their new reality. This can be a combination of short, online videos, targeted podcasts, live seminars—either online or in person—and maybe even a live or virtual conference. 

The point is to have a plan specific to your nonprofit’s needs in the role that the staff (or volunteer) fills. That way, you can dig out from the rubble, shovel the snow and drain the water, and get to exactly what you need to be doing in our post-pandemic world.


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