If you want to grow and develop your skills so that you can do the absolute best you can, and your organisation is constantly striving to do more and have a bigger impact on the causes it is trying to address, investing in the skills and expertise of staff and volunteers should be the easiest thing in the world to decide on, and make happen.
But we know it’s far from that simple.
Even if you’ve reached the point of identifying where some training could help, and you’ve found an amazing organisation to help you, making the case internally for being able to attend a training course, or pay for access to online learning or other resources, can be a real challenge.
In many charities, there isn’t just competition for a training budget, there isn’t a training budget. Spending a few hundred pounds on anything that can be deemed as “non-critical” is a really tough decision to make at the best of times, and convincing your boss or board of trustees that vital funds should be allocated to your personal development can seem like a pretty hard sell.
The following steps are designed to help you to make the case within your organisation, that investing in your skills, expertise and knowledge is exactly that, an investment. That the right expertise in the right areas can help individuals, teams, departments, and whole organisations to make breakthroughs that they didn’t even know were possible, and that if you’re not constantly trying to find ways for your staff and volunteers to grow and improve, how can you expect the same for your organisation?
Know what you want
Think about what exactly it is you are looking for help and support with. Have you just picked up a new responsibility or project that’s a little outside of your skill or comfort zone? Or are you about to take on a new management role and are looking at something to give you a more long-term underpinning? Is it even for you or are you looking at support for a member of your team that is either struggling or showing promise in a particular area?
Understand the decision maker
Next, understand the process for agreeing and signing off staff development in your organisation. If you have a formal process, or it’s woven into a management structure of 121s and appraisals for example, use that system the way it’s intended. If you don’t have one, work out who is most likely to make the decision, at least in the first instance.
Once you know who you need to speak to, think about them as a person. How do they like to communicate? What’s the best time to approach them? Are they approachable and likely to respond well to an informal chat, or are they likely to want a formal request from you via email before even considering what you want?
Prepare your pitch
However formal or informal your request is, there are some core questions you should be prepared to answer. The key things to be clear on are:
- How much the training course (or other support) will cost
- The dates involved if you’ll be away from work
- Where you’ll be (location) and associated travel/other costs
- How long the training will last and how your work will be covered
- What the training will cover, and what you’ll learn
- Details of the training provider, their reputation and track record
- Any support or follow up after the training
- The cost benefit to your organisation of you attending
That last point, presenting the cost benefit can be a tricky case to make. The more concrete you can make it the easier it may be to get the support you need, but it’s not always that simple a thing to present. One thing we know at DSC though, is that training works. Across all of the training topics we cover, 82% of our delegates last year said the training they did with us helped them to carry out their role better, with another 6% saying it was too early to say.
Once you’ve got the answers to those, it’s easy to create a simple proposal outlining the following:
- An explanation of the area you want training in
- Why that training is relevant to your organisation, how it fits in with your objectives, and the ultimate impact it will have on who you are aiming to serve
- Why you want to go on that specific course
- How it will benefit the organisation overall
- How your workload will be filled while you’re away
- What the costs might be of delaying or not going on the course (although this might be hard to quantify)
- How you’ll apply the learning afterwards (we’d recommend having that conversation with your line manager following any training as well!)
Preparing like this should make it much easier to convince your boss to send you on that course you know will help – and even if it doesn’t, it should open up a really healthy conversation about what other support might be available, and how to work learning and development opportunities into your ongoing work.