Back to School!
You can now get certifications and degrees in a fully online format. (Disclosure: I am both pursuing an advanced degree online and teaching in a nonprofit certification course online.) That's often more affordable and allows flexibility for those of us who travel. But it requires discipline since (usually) assignments can be turned in at your convenience.
Bottom line: There is no perfect training method today. Think about how you learn best and the benefits of the various options. If you want to try a new format (for you), begin with something that has a lower cost to see if it works for you. Your investment — of money and time — will be wasted if you find you can't truly absorb the material when it's given in a particular environment.
Read the promotion carefully
Years ago, someone commented that a brochure for a one-day seminar to teach nonprofits how to design brochures and newsletters was so poorly designed, it was nearly unreadable. While the course presenter probably didn't design the promotion, the poor quality (small type, long blocks of copy and few visual cues to help you move through it) made the contents of the actual training seem suspect.
As you read the course description, ask yourself if it sounds like solid information or if it is it just a bunch of key phrases and buzzwords strung together. Are the takeaways that are promised in line with what you need in your career? Do the speakers have the background to speak out of solid experience? Do you feel adequate time has been allocated for the training, or are they (for example) promising to turn you into a planned-giving expert in four hours?
Given tight budgets, it can be tempting to choose a low-cost alternative, hoping it's good enough. And often it is, assuming you take the time to evaluate carefully before registering. But "time is money" (a cliché, but true), so don't hesitate to delay training for a few months to find the best option rather than spending your time on a marginal program.
Pamela Barden is an independent fundraising consultant focused on direct response. You can read more of her fundraising columns here.