The opportunity for continuous learning and growth is one of the best tools available to increase and sustain engagement in the workplace. Training and development should address the needs of your nonprofit and the desires of the individual worker. In many organizations, either the worker or their supervisor may propose a development opportunity. While organizational needs should come first, do not be too narrow in defining what training is worthwhile. If the worker can connect the dots between their job and the training they seek, support them if your budget allows.

As you plan for training and development of workers, there are several things to consider. Think about opportunities to grow worker’s knowledge of your field, technical or soft skills, and connections to other peers through membership in professional associations or attendance at local or national conferences. If you have multiple workers, or even the whole staff, in need of similar training, bringing someone in-house may make sense. In addition, all staff training is one way to emphasize the importance of a given topic. Some topics that may call for all staff training might be core values, communications skills, or diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Also, consider how your nonprofit’s training needs may change as your organization grows. Management skills training becomes more and more critical as you hire more workers that require a greater number of managers/supervisors. These trainings may include how to supervise people, managing conflict, legal requirements and organizational policies related to human resources, and information about how to manage in a way that is aligned with your organization’s value and culture.

Nonprofits need to budget for worker development. Some organizations budget a set amount per worker, while others budget a pool of funds that is allocated as needed. As an employer, you should pay for the training your workers attend and count that time as paid work time. Providing learning and growth opportunities for your employees will improve their performance and their job satisfaction, so it is worth prioritizing.

When you think about worker development, remember that under the Washington Equal Pay and Opportunities Act limiting career development opportunities, or providing unequal career advancement opportunities, on the basis of gender contributes to pay inequity and is unlawful. Employers cannot limit or deprive an employee of career advancement opportunities on the basis of gender. Differences in career advancement opportunities among genders may be acceptable if the difference is based on: seniority, merit/work performance, measuring earnings by quantity or quality of production, or differences in education, training, or experience.


As you think about learning and growth opportunities for your workers, here are some questions to get you started. Capture your answers in a notebook or a shared document with your team.”

Ask yourself…

  • What skills and knowledge do your workers need to do their job?
  • Is there any training that is mandated in your industry, such as CPR and First Aid training or Continuing Education Units?
    • If yes, how will you create a system to make sure your staff are current with the requirements?
  • Do many of your staff need similar training?
  • Are supervisors and workers in leadership roles provided the training and support they need?
  • What are your budget constraints, and how can you make development opportunities available to all workers?
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