Friday, April 24, 2009

Live blogging from YNPN Leaders Conference: Should professional development be quantified?

I just got into DC off the red eye. I’m a little groggy but happy to be in the room with emerging leaders from across the nation. This morning’s panelists (Stacy Palmer, Chuck Bean, Glen O'Gilvie and Tamara Lucas Copeland) are discussing the state of the DC Nonprofit Sector.

The panelists discussed how the economy is affecting DC nonprofits, such as:

• Nonprofits without diverse funding sources are struggling;
• 1 out of 4 nonprofits are extremely vulnerable;
• Foundations' assets are decreasing yet funders are remaining committed to the sector, and;
• Nonprofits had a drastic increase for their services yet their revenues are decreasing.

The panelists also discussed how DC Funders and nonprofits alike are addressing the challenges in this economic downturn by engaging in: collaboration, cost containment, shared services, volunteer utilization, mergers, restructuring, shared back office.

While these things are important, I want to focus on the issue of professional development and specifically quantifying the value of professional development.

Chuck Bean from the Nonprofit Roundtable said “professional development [for emerging leaders] now is more important than ever”! He also encouraged emerging leaders to show Return on Investment (ROI) of their professional development experiences.

This is good in theory, however I and other emerging leaders struggle with this. Many younger leaders see the value of professional development but don't know how to show its value or quantify its value in a way "our" bosses will understand. I would have liked Chuck to say here are a few examples of how you can quantify your professional development experiences.

Even so, I'm not sure I'm sold on creating an ROI for my professional development experiences, so I'm asking you: Should professional development be quantified? If so, how would you show the ROI on your own professional development experiences?

Would it look something like this: "the technology professional development I received in my last organization helped me improve my organization’s technology infrastructure and saved the organization thousands of dollars." Or would it look like something different?

1 comment:

Lindsey McDougle said...


I totally agree with you, taking an organizational level concept (such as ROI) and applying it to the individual level for something like professional development is a bit... ummm, well hard to imagine (for me at least). There are MANY benefits from professional development that may not be immediately quantifiable, or that may not even relate to the position that an individual is currently in.

There are also many questions that this brings up. Who is setting the metrics? Who's to say that any one metric is "better" than another in terms of professional development?
What if professional development doesn't result in quantifiable metrics, but in "soft" skill development?

What if... the professional development helped you to communicate more effectively with your staff? How do you quantify that?