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Sunday, 07 July 2013 22:00

GVSU study finds internal training key to improving performance at nonprofits

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It comes as no surprise that nonprofits have a continual pressing need for money, but some of the potential solutions to that challenge might be as easy as providing for internal staff training needs and reducing turnover.

So says the 2013 Nonprofits Needs Assessment Report funded by the Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University. The report contains information gleaned from 138 different nonprofits throughout Michigan.

Many of the findings point to the need for organizations such as the Johnson Center to continue to offer content-specific programming related to topics such as technology, marketing and communications and data-based decision making.

“There is recent research showing that organizations need to prevent turnover and employee burnout,” said Heather Carpenter, assistant professor in the School of Public, Nonprofit and Health Administration at GVSU. “The Young Nonprofit Professionals Network did a study which found that younger employees wanted professional development opportunities.”

Carpenter, who conducted the Johnson Center study, said she thinks organizations are realizing that these opportunities are important tools in retaining employees and increasing capacity-building.

“Nonprofit and philanthropic employers are recognizing that in order to reduce employee burnout and turnover as well as maintain positive employee morale, they must provide professional development opportunities to their staff,” the study stated. “These opportunities can take place inside or outside of the organization. Wherever the professional development takes place, it provides many positive benefits to employees, volunteers and organizations.”

Similar studies were conducted in 1998 and 2007 and focused primarily on nonprofits in West Michigan. Carpenter said the most recent study includes input from nonprofits throughout the entire state.

There are more than 48,000 nonprofits operating in the state of Michigan, employing close to 375,000 nonprofit workers. While some industries continue to struggle in Michigan, the nonprofit sector grows at a rate of 1.3 percent per year. The demand for nonprofit services is also rising, and nonprofit workers must work longer hours and take on additional responsibilities to meet increasing demands.

Respondents to this most recent survey indicated that the Johnson Center was the second-most used resource center — after the Internet — for nonprofit organizations.

“They’re going to the Internet first for professional development and then they use professional associations and a mixture of external and internal resources,” Carpenter said. “We found that on average organizations devote 2 percent of their budget to professional development.”

Seventy-three percent of respondents to the study offered professional training to their staff and 61 percent offered it to their board members. For those organizations that did not offer any type of professional development, 47 percent indicated that it was because of the cost and 20 percent said it was a lack of relevant information. Meanwhile, 37 percent that did not offer training cited money issues as the driving factor.

Carpenter said respondents indicated their most crucial training needs were board of directors training, program evaluation and data-based decision making.

“I find it interesting that evaluations are a really hot topic right now,” she said. “I think charity watchdog organizations are more closely evaluating nonprofits and making sure those nonprofits have the metrics to measure performance. Funders also are taking a closer look.”

Revised IRS Form 990s are raising legal concerns about compliance and regulatory issues as they relate to the Internal Revenue Service and states’ attorneys general. The reporting requirements are forcing nonprofits to create policies on how contributions are recorded.

Carpenter said fundamental nonprofit training needs to happen. She said she thinks nonprofits must continue to be innovative and get their back office operations in order.

“From previous work that I’ve done, I’m definitely seeing that nonprofits are going to go more toward sharing back office operations,” Carpenter said. “There’s a disconnect about where people want this sector to go and where it’s actually going.” 

Read 8192 times Last modified on Friday, 19 July 2013 11:53
Jane C. Simons

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jsimons@mibiz.com

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