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ASU Lodestar Center Blog

Why training and development programs are important for nonprofits

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Increased attrition, lack of qualified leaders, and trouble meeting the organization’s mission — these are all current issues facing nonprofit organizations. A tool that can alleviate these challenges includes comprehensive training and development programs. Although not a magic wand that will solve all of a nonprofit’s challenges, it can significantly impact an organization.

What is a training and development program?

Training and development practices involve building and gaining knowledge and skills for future roles. Organizations should address both training and development needs when implementing their program. Training and development programs are how nonprofits can improve their staff’s skills to meet the demands of the organization. The programs also help develop the future leaders that will lead the ever-evolving organization. These trainings can take many forms and can include orientations, regular mandatory training, guest speakers, professional development conferences, fellowships, one-on-one mentorships, on-the-job training and more.

Benefits of training and development programs

The top three benefits of training and development programs for nonprofits are:

  1. Better-prepared staff
  2. Staff members with increased support
  3. A reduction in employee turnover

Training programs allow organizations to grow a new generation of skilled leaders while also to ensuring that they are appropriately prepared for their jobs. Training employees for their roles can take the shape of orientations, on-the-job training, or even attending external training from professional organizations. When staff attends these events, they can improve on their current role at the organization and bring innovation and new practices to their job. A training program will lead to more prepared staff members that will help the organization run smoother and more efficiently.

Feeling supported and reducing turnover

Another benefit of a well-run training and development program is having staff feel supported. Feeling supported and valued has been shown to positively influence staff’s attitude towards the organization they work for. This attitude change can lead to decreased absences, increased performance, high commitment to the organization, and lower attrition rates. These changes allow for commitments to be met and a reduction in the turnover rates; this can enable any organization to save money and time and avoid constantly replacing staff positions.

Leadership development programs

Creating a generation of leaders advance the nonprofit sector can be difficult. Often times, organizations look to hire leaders from external sources. Not being able to find and hire enough prepared and qualified leaders to take over later on can be challenging – but development programs can help. Having an established and active leadership development organization can direct current junior leadership to future opportunities and roles when available. Developing future leaders creates an advantage for organizational hiring practices, and by investing in the careers of the staff, organizations can retain those employees at a greater rate.

There are four major parts to establishing a successful training and development program.

  • Conducting a needs assessment – Should prioritize the areas within the organization that requires improvement, new resources and training.
  • Setting objectives – Introduce a program objective that has been agreed upon by management. Individuals should be reminded of their duties and responsibilities.
  • Determining the curriculum and delivery model – Strategically use available funding, time, and resources to outsource new opportunities or staff assignments and projects.
  • Evaluating the program – Evaluate for effectiveness; this will determine what changes get implemented into the organization full-time. Did the organization grow? Cut costs? Meet employee satisfaction?

Training and development programs are one of, if not the best tools for nonprofits to successfully meet their mission and accomplish their goals; it is essential that nonprofit leaders establish a culture and practice that embrace these lessons.

Aden Ramirez is a graduate of the Master of Nonprofit Leadership and Management program at Arizona State University. He is currently the program manager for the JA Inspire program at Junior Achievement of Arizona, where he works with schools and Arizona-based businesses to educate Arizona students about all the different careers available to them so they can select a career that best fits them. His passion for career exploration came from being a HOSA: Future Health Professionals and Career and Technical Education (CTE) alum and supporter. During his free time, he enjoys cooking for and exploring the outdoors with his family and friends.

Explore professional and organizational development

The ASU Lodestar Center's Nonprofit Management Institute provides the knowledge, tools and connections for you to become an effective nonprofit professional, volunteer or board member and to help your organization grow.

The Center also provides consulting services for nonprofits in need of customized support on specific organizational challenges. We'll work with your organization to develop a specialized scope of work to accelerate change.

Aden Ramirez


ASU Lodestar Center Blog