As a part of your boss’s latest effort to explore new tech frontiers, your organization is rolling out an LMS. All the new hires and volunteers are getting onboarded with it going forward. The team has been throwing around words like “standardized compliance training” and “self-paced learning”.
And you’re still not sure how it was decided that you’d be the one choosing the software and inputting the course material.
So what is LMS? And what does LMS mean for your nonprofit going forward?
If you read these questions and thought, “Get out of my head, plleassee!!”, you’ve come to the right place!
We’re about to give you a short, sweet, and to-the-point crash course on LMS for nonprofits. Keep reading to get the goods.
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What Is a Nonprofit Supposed to Do With Its Learning Management System?
What if we told you that learning new skill sets and increasing your organizational reach could be as easy as waking up in the morning? How would your organization change if you could churn out well-trained volunteers by the dozen without having to hire an outside specialist?
Some of the perks that have traditionally been associated with having a nonprofit LMS, or learning management system, include:
- The ability to equip people who are interested in your cause with a strong knowledge base
- Freedom to focus on serving your community better
- A more consistent training experience for staff and volunteers so that you don’t end up fielding questions like “What does nonprofit mean?” and “How do nonprofits make money?” every few months
Whether you’re doing internal training, establishing your expertise, or coming up with new ways to fundraise and get donor attention online, a nonprofit LMS makes it possible for you to do all of this and more with the press of a single button.
The Five Features Every Nonprofit LMS Should Have
Now that we’ve explained what a nonprofit LMS is and why your organization should have it, we can finally get down to business. Drumroll, please.
Most people wouldn’t dream of going treasure hunting without a map and you shouldn’t look at a software-based solution without knowing your non-negotiables. Our prestigious list of nonprofit LMS must-haves includes:
Quick show of hands. Who wants to give up their free time for an increased workload and an increased reading load in a subject that you aren’t all that interested in? Yeah, we thought so.
In 2021, the University of Pennsylvania was able to coax a group of veterans to take an average of 1200 more steps per day. To put this number into perspective, it takes roughly 2000 steps to walk a mile. And if the veterans were getting these 1200 daily steps over the course of a month, they walked an additional 18 miles each month during this experiment.
Now how did the researchers coax this group of military-trained individuals into doing more? They offered an unbeatable combination of cash incentives and gamification.
After the newness of your LMS wears off, your organization will have to do the hard work of convincing your staff members and your volunteers to follow through with their training. And while most people don’t enjoy having to do extra work, who doesn’t like playing games and unlocking new levels?
Gamification allows you to inject a level of fun into even the driest, I’d-rather-be-clipping-my-toenails-than-reading-this material.
2. Progress Tracking
Imagine you’re starting a new fitness journey. Except, unlike some people who might set goals of “I’d like to lose 10 pounds.” or “I want to gain some lean muscle.”, you’ve decided that you want to qualify for the Olympics.
So you train. You lift weights. You even hire the best nutritionists that money can buy.
When the qualifying races begin, you’re thinking, “This is my chance!”. But then, after the race is over, your running coach sheepishly says, “Sorry. I never thought to keep track of your times this year.”.
If this scenario were to happen in real life, nobody would blame you for being upset. But when it comes to supervising learning outcomes, far too many organizations are happy to sign off on the certificate of completion without monitoring how the training is going. Here’s the problem with that:
Just because two people have certificates, that doesn’t mean that they have an equally strong understanding of the material. Some folks might breeze through one part of the course while struggling through the next section. Others might be waiting for their peers to do the work for them.
When you’re able to track everyone’s performance, you can ask the right questions in a more timely fashion. And sometimes that’s all you need to make sure that your volunteers and your staff members are being trained up to a high standard.
3. A Way to Manage Certifications
Remember the sticker system that every parent and teacher used to use when you were growing up? Even though most of us no longer consider stickers to be a fair trade for cleaning up around the house, it turns out that we never fully grow out of our desire for recognition when we do things.
And that’s not just us getting philosophical. The statistics show it too. In 2019, the University of Michigan observed that certificates increased MOOC completion rates by a whopping 10 to 12 percent.
Between online courses, night classes, and mixed-medium degrees, flexible learning options are here to stay. But even with all of the knowledge that’s available to all of us, not everyone is built for self-paced learning.
Of course, if it’s the staff that you’re trying to train, you can just direct them to do the work. However, if you’re marketing your organization or otherwise gifting your process to outsiders as a legacy thing, low completion rates are quite literally the opposite of what you want.
Depending on the material that you’re trying to push, a certificate of completion can give people a nice added incentive for finishing your course.
At the end of the day, completion certificates aren’t just a vanity metric — they can be a key deciding factor for course-takers who are on the fence or who otherwise need to prove that they’ve gone through your material.
Courses have changed people’s careers. And having that added qualification under their belts can make a world of difference to employers and students alike.
And we’re not just saying that. We have an entire article dedicated to discussing some of the cool things that you can do when creating your LMS.
However, to get your material to the next level, you’ll need to have a certain amount of flexibility built into your platform. Whether you’re imparting foundational knowledge in your field or you’re just trying to train up your volunteers, you want your LMS platform to be flexible enough that you can make changes.
Does the option you’re looking at allow you to throw your logo around? Does it give you the branding opportunities that subtly let course-takers know that you’re a bonafide expert at what you do?
Look for a nonprofit LMS solution that will let you pursue your vision for the course.
5. Ease of Access
The reality of online learning these days is that not everyone will be sitting at a computer while reading up on the material that you’ve provided them. Some people might be on their phones. And others may be accessing the course from a place with questionable reception.
More than anything, you need an LMS platform that allows you to accommodate everyone. That’s why it’s so essential that you’re able to find an LMS solution that enables things like offline reading and mobile browsing. After a few years have passed, you’ll be glad you made this a priority!
Need Help Designing Your Nonprofit LMS? We've Got Your Back!
Between making the world better and juggling your work-related duties, you’ve more than likely got a lot on your plate as it is.
Going from “We’d like a learning management system.” to “Here’s a polished, well-crafted, and flawless course.”? can take some serious finessing.
When you work with us, you can get all the benefits of an awesome LMS without having to deal with the why-can’t-I-get-this-to-work stress that comes hand in hand with wrangling software.