The Organizer #12 | Growth

How do I know how much money to put in my training budget? Follow the 1% rule and spend 1% of your organization's budget or 1% of your annual salary on training each year.

Everyone needs a training budget

Whether you are planning your organization’s year or setting personal goals, you need a training budget and you need some time to practice. I learned this making pizza.

Pizza and practice

The first time I tried to make pizza, it took more than two hours. I spent most of that time cursing the dough as it shrank back into the shape of a ball. No matter how much I pressed it, stretched it, and threatened it, it kept sliding back to its original form.

The second time I tried to make pizza, it took three hours. In the end, I threw the crust into the garbage in frustration and ordered takeout.

Today, I can make pizza with my eyes closed. I rarely swear at the dough. I never have to resort to takeout. Pizza has become one of my favourite things to cook.

The difference between then and now is training and practice. Training (thank you Internet) taught me how to recognize when the dough is at the right temperature for kneading and what flour to use. Practice taught me to feel for the right texture, adjust my oven settings, and anticipate when there is too much water in my sauce or cheese.

Work is the same as making pizza.

Training makes hard things easier

Every activity is harder the first few times we do it. Tasks take longer and problems are trickier to solve. Over time, what started out hard becomes easier with training and practice.

It’s also much easier to become discouraged when you’re doing something for the first time. You have no proof that you can ever master the task, and it can be easy to loose confidence.

When you stick with it, one day … voilà! What was new is now familiar. What required a lot of thought can now be done in the background. Now you have energy and attention for other things.

Successful people got help

Malcolm Gladwell famously championed the “10,000 hour rule”. The idea is that you practice something for 10,000 hours and you’ll master it.

The experts who inspired Gladwell were very clear, though: practice alone won’t cut it. You need to practice deliberately. This means you need to pay attention and learn from what you are doing. To learn, you need feedback, and to get feedback you need help from someone who knows more than you do.

There’s loads to learn when it comes to nonprofit work, but organizations aren’t always great at creating opportunities for deliberate learning. When resources are tight, you don’t get a lot of feedback. The issues we tackle are often so complex that we can’t know what’s working right away. It’s completely normal to send off grant proposals into a void. On top of that, there is no checklist of “nonprofit stuff” to learn, so most people wing it.

Unfortunately, skill development often costs money and takes time — two things that are in short supply in the nonprofit world.

The 1% rule for training budgets

If you haven’t already carved out training time and budget, this is the week to start. Forget Malcolm Gladwell and his 10,000 hour rule. Start with the 1% rule instead.

Organizations should spend (at least) 1% of their payroll on training each year. If you are a manager or a board member, make sure you set aside funds for your training budget.

If you’re planning your own future, here’s how to apply the 1% rule to your own work: Take your annual salary and multiply it by 0.01. For example, if you make $50,000 a year, then your personal training budget should be at least $500. That easily covers one course or one conference registration.

Don’t feel guilty about the time or money

Accountants, lawyers, managers, and other certified professionals spend 5 to 10 times more every year; nonprofit skills deserve the same respect.

To do this work well, you and your team need to understand government regulations, communications technology, emerging political and economic trends, and management. You need knowledge and skills, and you don’t have time to figure everything out for yourself.

Training isn’t just for your benefit. Practice and learning are crucial for organizations and for the future of our sector. Nonprofits make social change and equity possible. Our work matters, and so do our skills.

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