7 Perfect Reasons to Budget for Professional Development

December 13, 2019

Some of us are writing our 2020 budgets this month. Don’t let your professional development get left out. Take a breath and think about your strategic priorities for 2020: what would you like to accomplish? Is there a skill you need to move your mission forward?

You may need to justify professional development expenses to your boss or your board (or just yourself). Let us help you advocate for yourself. Here are 7 tried-and-true reasons attending a conference or a workshop is a smart use of your limited time and resources:

1Be strategic

Effective learning solves a problem, closes a gap, or addresses a need. As you reflect on your accomplishments of 2019, think about one barrier would you would like to overcome in 2020. Do you want to get better at hiring, conflict resolution, becoming a better supervisor, or grant writing? Set your goal and invest in achieving it.



The awesome people working in this sector have so many solutions to offer. What network do you belong to? Washington Nonprofits can get you connected. Ellensburg, Yakima, and Spokane have lively nonprofit networks.
Conferences are effective ways to build your network. The Washington State Nonprofit Conference attracts over 700 attendees from all over the state! Local events like the Central Washington Conference for the Greater Good offer a chance to build relationships with your  neighbors.

3Build your team

Participants often say they wish their whole board or staff could attend a training with them. With a little advance planning, you can use a conference or workshop as a productive team-building experience. If your organization sends more than one member of the staff or board, your team can draw on that shared experience and reinforce each other’s learning.
Consider carpooling or sharing accommodations to build stronger relationships while saving money.

Join a professional organization

Chances are your sector has several professional association at the local, state, or national level. Those organizations are there to help you stay up on trends and connect you to other people facing similar challenges. Look carefully at the benefits; they’re usually a great deal. After discounts on conferences, workshops, and webinars, your membership usually pays for itself.
Washington Nonprofit’s organizational membership allows you to share member benefits with your whole team. That includes staff, board, and volunteers!

5Find tools

Don’t avoid the vendor hall. Bringing back knowledge of practical tools and technologies will help your organization work more efficiently. Contemplating changing to a new database or accounting tool? Before you set out to compare all the products on the market, save time and money by checking whether someone else has already done the work. Talk directly with an expert, get answers to your questions, and compare notes with other customers.

“I found it very helpful to walk away with some tangible tools I can put into practice immediately!”
–2019 Washington State Nonprofit Conference participant

Come back inspired, empowered, and energized!

Imagine how you’ll feel returning to work with renewed energy after the conference or workshop. You have more skills at your disposal, learned about a whole world of resources, and met inspiring people.
Those who know the post-conference high may also know the cold crash of reality. Nancy Bacon and Mark Nilles say good presenter will keep the energy going. They’ll send you home with a concrete plan of action and follow up with more resources when you need them.

 “All great info! Amazing value for the cost of the workshop. Feel like I’m leaving with tons of resources and a map of where to go from here. Thank you!”
–Tools for Running an Effective Nonprofit participant


Double your investment by sharing what you learned with one other person. If you joined a webinar, see if your registration includes recordings to share with colleagues. Often toolkits, sample documents, and checklists are included. Those are yours to use and share.
Offer to present your experience at your next board or all-staff meeting. To keep up with the constant change in our sector, from philanthropy to overtime laws, staff and board members need to continually learn and connect.

The truth is, it’s hard to calculate the real return on investment of professional development. However, it’s clear that people who have opportunities to learn and grow in their roles enjoy greater job satisfaction and achieve more. Job satisfaction leads to better staff retention (which saves your organization money). We hope you keep one or two rationales from this list firmly in mind as you plan the year ahead.

PS. Washington Nonprofits never wants cost to be a barrier to participation. If the cost of attending a conference or a training isn’t in the books for you this year, we offer scholarships. Just contact us and ask! We hope you’ll use the skills to grow your organization’s capacity and return to pay it forward. More than one member has increased their membership level as their operating budget grows. We love being a part of their success story.

PPS. If you still have professional development funds in 2019, take advantage of our early bird rates and register now for a conference in 2020!

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