eLearning: Many Non-Profits Sit On The Fence

Many Non-Profits Sit On The FenceBy E. Brown

I have talked with numerous Not-For-Profit (NFP) organizations about online learning and knowledge management. Almost all are interested in the subjects and would like to distribute their content online for learning and training. Yet, they are all sitting on the fence when it comes to execution.

I was reminded of this again while at breakfast the other day. I ran into an acquaintance who knew of a VC that wanted to invest in online learning to reach an international audience. His issues were the same. All the NFP’s he had met with were waffling when it came to “doing the deal” and taking the eLearning plunge.

Why?

Getting In The Game
I witnessed this same attitude when the Web bubble started to grow in the early 90’s. Many NFP’s watched from the sidelines. I made three observations as to why this attitude prevailed:

  1. They didn’t understand the technology and were intimidated by change
  2. Many were simply waiting for “critical mass” before jumping onboard
  3. Most had not planned on the cost of the technology infrastructure or outsourcing

Generational Differences
“We do not need a Web site. We’re not a technology company!” was often what I heard from NFP’s. Now, you are missing an integral business and communication channel if you do not have a Web site.

The younger generations get it. Those of the older generation who want to get it are striving to keep up. Those of the older generation who do not care will eventually find themselves replaced.

The fact is, the Internet, the Web, and many more emerging technologies have been changing the business landscape. This changes will continue over the years to come.

As the older constituents of many NFP’s die, the upcoming generations will be using the Internet, Web, and new technologies like many use a tooth brush today. It will become a “normal” part of life.

Is your company prepared to move toward these next generations? Who will support you if you do not?

It is not too late to start now.

Step back and look at the organization. Start an open dialogue and include younger employees. Remove any “sacred cows” or culture stifling trends. Commit to a course and move out.

What Model Works Best
Another sticking point for NFP’s is creating or deciding upon the strategic model for online training and knowledge management that works best for them. “It’s obvious for universities and corporations — implement a learning initiative and charge back to the students or departments to pay for the investment,” one leader told me. “But, we’re dependent upon donations. If we wanted to offer this internally to staff or externally to our donors, who is going to pay?”

That depends on how you view this kind of initiative:

– as a complimentary service
– as a content delivery mechanism
– or, as a knowledge discussion environment

Which has more value for your constituents? Which has more value for you?

As for “who is going to pay,” that will be easier to understand once yo have decided on the above view points. If it is for complimentary, you can either ask for specific donations or grants for the initiative or create a line item in the budget and fund it yourself. If your view point is one of the latter two, there are a number of creative ways you can support online learning:

– Ala carte payment plan
– Subscription payment plan (annual, quarterly, by topic, etc.)
– And more…

Final Thoughts
It is a shame NFP’s are not jumping more readily into online learning. There are many valuable services, ideas, practices, and principles that NFP’s have to share. While a few have hesitantly climbed off the fence, many more sit and watch and wait. I hope, unlike Internet and Web adoption, that NFP’s encourage one another to not only adopt but to become trend-setters in the online learning arena.

Jump down and have fun!

Related Articles
Plug The Hole In The Knowledge Dam
New To eLearning? Count The Cost
Gold! Opportunities for eLearning in Non-Profit Sector
Is Your Content Going Global?

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