eLearning for Nonprofits: How to Support Training with an LMS
One of the biggest challenges nonprofit organizations face is working within a limited budget. Not only does this budget have to cover salaries and other overhead, but it also needs to be stretched to train employees, donors, board members, and volunteers on key messages. Training on this scale can be pricey and incredibly time-consuming. However, such organizations can save significant costs and time by launching eLearning.
This article covers all the essential information organizations need to know about the benefits of eLearning for nonprofits, and how it can revolutionize their current training model.
Advantages of Using eLearning In Nonprofit Organizations
eLearning has become increasingly popular in the world of nonprofits because it solves many of the major pain points nonprofits encounter in upskilling employees and volunteers, such as
- eLearning reduces training costs since businesses don’t need to pay for employee and trainer travel, infrastructure and classroom maintenance, facilitators’ salaries, and documentation.
- eLearning frees up time for trainers and SMEs to focus on other important tasks, like improving learning content.
All in all, eLearning has made training more accessible for nonprofits, making them better equipped to reach their goals.
What Is an LMS for Nonprofits?
Nonprofit organizations are legal entities organized and operated for a collective, public, or social benefit, in contrast with an entity that operates as a business aiming to generate a profit for its owners. As such, their training goals are quite different from those of commercial organizations. Depending on the company’s peculiarities, it may require training people in different roles.
Board members. Board service is a leadership position that carries many responsibilities beginning with the three primary legal duties known as the “duty of care,” “duty of loyalty,” and “duty of obedience.” A nonprofit organization has a responsibility to provide board members with relevant governance training that includes mastering skills of networking with community business professionals, fundraising, and developing effective agendas.
Staff. Many of the small to mid-size nonprofits have limited paid staff, but there are still employees and they need to be trained consistently. The first thing they should know about is the organization’s mission, vision, and plans. After this, they move on to job-specific training. Senior positions may require mastering such skills as fundraising, grant writing, accounting and finance, communications, and volunteer engagement.
Volunteers. Unlike employees, volunteers are workers who voluntarily choose to provide services to a nonprofit with no expectation of compensation. But their training program is often almost the same as that of the paid staff. It includes orientation when volunteers dive deep into the basics of nonprofits, the organization’s mission in particular, and job-specific training.
Donors. Most nonprofits have a range of donors that subsidize them. They may vary from large corporations to individual philanthropists. One of the most important things when communicating with potential donors is to provide them with detailed information about the nonprofit organization, its mission, and charity work. Besides, it’s crucial to always keep donors informed of the activities made by the organization and issues that they’re likely to continue supporting.
It may seem like training all these people online effectively is impossible, but that’s not so. Training can be easy and fast if you have a proper learning management system. An LMS is an online platform where you can store courses and other learning materials, assign content to learners, and track their training progress and results.
Nowadays, lots of LMS options are available on the market, with varying features catering to different organizational needs. It’s important to pick an LMS that best meets your organization’s objectives.
Why Using an LMS in Nonprofit Companies Is Crucial
An LMS offers employees and volunteers an easy access platform dedicated to learning and sharing knowledge. This is perfect for a nonprofit organization that wants to reach people on a global scale or offer 24/7 online support.
There are a few ways in which an LMS can help a nonprofit organization achieve its mission.
An LMS facilitates better communication with donors and members
Donors are individuals or organizations that provide financial support to nonprofit organizations. Nonprofits rely on donors to survive, making it essential to prioritize building great relationships with them. A simple way to foster good relationships is through an excellent communication strategy. An LMS can make this happen in several ways.
1. An easy way to share training resources
Nonprofits can use an LMS to create learning content on building strong relationships with donors and share it with employees and volunteers.
2. Good communication channels
Communication is key. An LMS is a great platform for leveraging communication and keeping people informed, thanks to its interactive nature.
Nonprofits can create online forums and channels within their LMS platform to facilitate communication between the organization and donors and share useful resources and other news. Through the LMS, donors can collaborate via live chat, attend webinars and online classes, and get better informed about the mission through social learning.
3. Data analytics to improve performance
Using an LMS to communicate with donors allows the nonprofit to make data-driven decisions based on their donors’ activities. Nonprofits can see the topics that engage their audience and use this information to create a more aligned engagement strategy. The tracking and reporting features of an LMS make it easy to track how content is peforming and get a better idea of what their members want more of.
An LMS makes it easy for nonprofits to provide timely compliance training
Compliance training is a legal requirement for all organizations, including nonprofits. An LMS makes it easy for companies to stay up to date on mandatory compliance training in several ways.
1. Completion tracking
An LMS allows organizations to track course completion and send automatic reminders to those who haven’t completed their training. Stakeholders can then use the dashboard to see who hasn’t completed the training after receiving the reminder notification and contact them directly. This reduces the effort on the stakeholder’s part and improves the overall completion rating of the training.
2. Automatic reminders
Thanks to its certification and retraining features, an LMS can automatically award a certificate upon completion of a course or learning plan. The learner can download their certificate to show that they are up to date on their compliance training and, if assigned an expiry date, the LMS will automatically send a reminder notification when it’s time to retake the training.
3. Activity reports for stakeholders and auditors
A reliable reporting system takes the pressure off nonprofits by providing detailed activity reports. Stakeholders and HR staff can provide auditors with all details related to the compliance training, including how many people have completed it, when they completed it, and who is noncompliant.
An LMS can be used to generate revenue
Having an LMS not only decreases the cost of nonprofit training but also creates different options for nonprofits to generate new income. Here are just a few.
1. Boost income generating performance
Better training will boost employees’ success with income generating activities like fundraising and writing effective grant proposals. The more successful an organization is at writing grant proposals, the more funding it will secure. The same goes for fundraising: highly trained fundraisers will perform better and bring in more donations.
2. Create paid nonprofit courses
Nonprofit organizations typically have a single mission that unites and ignites passion in their employees, meaning there is a wealth of expertise within the organization. Nonprofits can leverage this knowledge, using an LMS to sell and deliver nonprofit training courses, thus generating more revenue, as well as educating the community.
Common Features of an LMS for Nonprofits
In this section, we’ll discover several key features that all LMSs for nonprofits should have.
1. User-friendly Interface
Employees and volunteers who work for nonprofit organizations are typically passionate people who rarely have an IT background. That’s why it’s better to choose an LMS with a simple, intuitive interface that will keep them coming back for more training.
When selecting a system, invite colleagues with a wide range of technical abilities to test it and give feedback. Even the most technologically challenged members of the team should be able to navigate the LMS with as little assistance as possible. Focus on the most important actions they will need to perform on the platform, such as access courses, download coursework, and participate in social learning. If the majority can handle these tasks, then you have found yourself a user-friendly LMS.
2. Responsive on multiple devices
It is essential that nonprofits make training accessible for volunteers and people in the community who may not have access to a laptop or a secure internet connection. The perfect solution here is an LMS that works perfectly on both desktop and mobile devices, and comes with a native mobile app. Such apps typically allow learners to download training materials and view them offline if there’s no internet connection.
3. Course authoring tool
Courses and assessments are an essential part of eLearning. To create courses, you need an authoring tool that may become a major expenditure for nonprofit organizations. To avoid this, you can choose an LMS that comes with an authoring tool that won’t cost you anything.
There are some platforms that have basic built-in course and assessment editors, and LMSs that come with an integrated authoring tool as a bundled solution. For example, iSpring Learn LMS has both a built-in editor that allows you to create courses the same way you write a post in social media, and the integrated iSpring Suite authoring toolkit.
Sonata Learning, for example, uses iSpring Suite to help companies and nonprofit organizations implement learning programs by creating engaging online courses with quizzes, videos, and dialogue simulations. For instance, it helped an international organization called Terre des Hommes develop eLearning modules for social workers who work with children and young people who have been abused or sexually exploited.
Below you can see one of such modules:
4. Reports and analytics dashboard
Nonprofits need to be able to track training initiatives to analyze how effective they are, monitor attendance/completion rates, and make improvements. A robust reporting feature integrated into your system will provide great insights into individual learner performance and the overall effectiveness of a course or learning path.
5. Multiple support options
If the organization is new to eLearning or has chosen a more complex LMS, then it may need a lot of ongoing support. Not every LMS provides the same level of customer support. It’s always a good idea to research what support options the vendor offers, such as tutorials, guides, and webinars focused on best practices, as well as a live chat feature for helpdesk issues.
6. Gamification and certification features
Adding game mechanics to your eLearning course is a surefire way to boost engagement. Training can be dull for employees and volunteers, so adding a little extra incentive in the form of badges, contests, leaderboards, or point systems adds some life to the training.
For optimal success, organizations should be on the lookout for LMS platforms with in-built gamification features that allow them to reward badges and provide other incentives easily. Some LMS platforms also provide certification — this is great for compliance courses or individual career paths.
7. Localization options
For nonprofits that need to deliver eLearning across different locations, localization is key. Learners connect with learning material more readily when it’s in their language, so localizing training content not only increases its effectiveness but also makes it more inclusive.
While localizing training courses can require significant time and effort, localizing the interface of the LMS itself can be very quick if your system supports the languages you need. Before making a purchase decision, ask the vendor what languages the interface is available in.
8. Social learning channels
Social learning happens when people learn by observing other peoples’ behaviors. Quite a few LMS platforms offer built-in social learning tools to harness the power of social learning. These include channels where learners can share training content, online forums, comment sections to encourage dialogue, and “ask the expert” features.
These are the basic features an LMS for nonprofits should have. However, there is no one-size-fits-all LMS model. Before making a final choice, it’s essential to consider how each LMS fares in terms of training needs, use cases, budget limitations, and platform requirements.
For more information, we recommend checking out this article on LMS requirements.
Top 5 LMSs for Nonprofits
With such a wide variety to choose from, picking the right LMS for your organization can be overwhelming. That’s why we’ve done extensive research and compiled a list of the top LMS platforms for nonprofits.
When making the list, we considered the following core needs that most nonprofit organizations have and how each LMS meets those requirements: cost-effectiveness, user-friendliness, course authoring features, reporting capabilities, and customer support.
After careful consideration, we’ve collected the top-performing LMS platforms for nonprofits.
1. iSpring Learn
iSpring Learn is a great LMS option for nonprofits, thanks to its robust reporting features, affordable price, and authoring tools.
iSpring Learn comes bundled with the iSpring Suite authoring tool, so you don’t have to spend money on a separate authoring tool. iSpring Learn also offers some advanced features not usually available in its price range, including multi-language support and strong integration capabilities.
There are different pricing plans available, depending on the organizational needs. Larger organizations can even request a custom plan to suit their requirements. Licensing is based on the number of monthly active users, which means you pay only for those users who entered the system during a month. This is very convenient and beneficial if you don’t train your staff and volunteers, but conduct induction training to enroll newcomers.
iSpring Learn has an incredibly intuitive interface, making it easy for learners and administrators to navigate the tool. It’s clutter free, with a simple scrolling design and no confusing navigation buttons.
iSpring Learn LMS is easy to use for both learners and trainers.
As mentioned above, iSpring Learn LMS has a built-in course editor and is integrated with the world-famous iSpring Suite authoring toolkit that is designed for building advanced courses with quizzes, dialogue simulations, video tutorials, and interactive modules.
The iSpring Suite authoring toolkit works as a PowerPoint add-in, so you can start creating courses right away, even with no design or programming background.
The best thing is that you get it for free as a bundled solution, whereas it will cost you $770 (per author/year) if you purchase it as a standalone software.
Reporting and analytics
iSpring Learn has strong analytics that can be segmented at a course level, an individual level, and a group level. It also offers a comprehensive reporting system that sends automated reports, such as dashboards and graphic reports.
iSpring Learn has a visual dashboard that allows you to get a quick update on what’s happening at a glance.
iSpring provides 24/7 customer support from highly trained staff. Thanks to their super quick response time, 83% of all cases are resolved within 2 hours.
LearnUpon scooped up second place with generally great scores. Rating high in customer support and user-friendliness, in particular, LearnUpon is another great option for nonprofits.
LearnUpon is an affordable option for nonprofits, with a basic license for 50 active users and 1 portal starting at €699.
LearnUpon has an intuitive interface, with plenty of options to customize the calendar, language, and location settings. The system has been praised for its clean interface and super easy LMS integration, making it a great option for teams who are new to eLearning.
The LMS doesn’t come with an authoring tool, but it allows you to assemble learning tracks from existing content — Word, PowerPoint, PDF, and audio and video files. To ensure your learners understand the material, you can add exams or knowledge checks into your courses.
Reporting and analytics
The LMS has strong reporting and analytic capabilities, providing a good range of customized report options and automation.
Thanks to its team of well-trained professionals, LearnUpon regularly scores very high on customer support, and the support team has been praised for responding well to feedback.
In third place is Docebo. This popular LMS has lots of functionality that can be useful for nonprofit organizations.
In terms of cost, Docebo is one of the pricier platforms on this list. Since it uses a scalable pricing model, Docebo doesn’t have a set pricing plan. Custom quotes are available, according to the size of the organization and how many active users they have.
Docebo is a user-friendly system that learners can use from day one. As an administrator, the backend is more complicated than other options on the list, the integration process requires support from the Docebo team, and setting up different user profiles isn’t as straightforward as it could be. Although the integration process is more complicated than others, it integrates with a wide range of core business systems, like CRM.
The LMS doesn’t include a course builder, but there’s a built-in quiz editor with 8 question types, although its interface can be hard to wrap one’s head around sometimes. Docebo also comes with a Marketplace where users buy courses on different topics made by third-party instructional designers.
Reporting and analytics
The platform provides a broad range of reporting options that cover most organizational needs. The dashboard is simple to navigate and gives a decent overview of user activity. Although there is currently no custom report available for users/managers, Docebo rolls out new features regularly.
Docebo offers 24/7 online support via live chat. It also has a very detailed knowledge base to guide new users through common issues. Even though Docebo scored well in customer support overall, it didn’t perform as well in this category as other LMS platforms on this list.
Next on the list is the new kid on the block, Looop. Despite being relatively new on the market, it is already making waves, thanks to its clean interface and great customer support. While there are still some minor issues that need to be ironed out, such as bugs in newly integrated features, it scores well across the board.
Looop is also cost-effective, with prices starting at $299 per month for up to 50 users. In terms of price, it is an affordable option for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), especially since it comes with a built-in resource builder.
The LMS scores high in usability, boasting a slick look and feel. It also gained points for its easy integrations with platforms such as LinkedIn Learning and Wistia. It offers a lot of customization options, such as location settings, multilingual support, and media embedding support.
Looop has an intuitive resource builder and free SCORM and xAPI Kickstarter content that’s easy to integrate. There’s also a built-in survey tool that can help collect learner feedback to further optimize the content.
Reporting and analytics
Looop has good reporting options, such as automated report scheduling, canned reports, dashboards, and graphic reports. There is still some room for improvement with its reporting capability — it currently doesn’t include training record maintenance or email delivery of reports, both of which are handy features.
Looop offers 24/7 online support and has also built a strong community of administrators who share tips and suggestions amongst themselves. It has received praise for listening to and acting on customer feedback.
5. Moodle (open source)
In fifth place is an Open Source LMS, Moodle. This LMS is free and can be adapted, extended, or modified by anyone. As the only free option on this list, Moodle scored very highly on cost-effectiveness and for having a surprising number of features, but lost points on usability and customer support.
Moodle is free to use, making it a fantastic option for nonprofits who want to start their eLearning journey on a zero budget. Clients can pay to upgrade to more complete plans, starting from €100 per year for 50 users and 250MB of storage.
Compared to other platforms, Moodle scored lower on usability. Reviews show that some users don’t find it intuitive and have to rely heavily on technical support. For administrators, there are a lot of customization options to consider, so nonprofits that want to go with Moodle will need an experienced admin to set it up.
Moodle allows you to create basic lessons with text, pictures, audio, video, and knowledge check questions and/or quizzes. But the interface is rather clunky, so it might take a lot of time for a novice Moodle user to build courses.
Reporting and analytics
Moodle has limited reporting and analytics capabilities. It covers the essentials with several report options, but doesn’t currently have a dashboard or graphic reports, and there is no option for automated reports.
The LMS didn’t score as highly as others on customer support. It has a great directory of tutorial videos and guides available online, but users have to go hunting in forums for answers to issues. As it doesn’t have email support, users and administrators need to fill out a form to request support, which slows down response time.
eLearning has had a hugely positive impact on nonprofits, making education more accessible and slashing training costs. Having a robust LMS can revolutionize how a nonprofit organization delivers training, communicates with members, and shares educational content in the community.
When selecting an LMS, nonprofits should do their research, starting by defining their objectives, doing a training needs analysis, gathering feedback on how employees learn best, and creating a detailed list of requirements from the platform. The next step is to test-drive the platform.
You can start with iSpring’s Learn LMS. Get a fully functional 30-day free trial to explore all of its capacities.