The technology adoption process can be overwhelming for non-profit organizations. Where do you start? How can you implement new systems and keep volunteers, staff and donors up to date? And once you pick the right tool, how do you get staff to adopt it?
Below are 5 tried-and-true tactics that I use when working with non-profit organizations on their long-term model for system adoption, whether it’s for a Learning Management System (LMS) or a Constituent Relationship Management system (CRM).
Explain what an LMS or CRM is in clear and simple terms
Recently, I was working with the executive director of an organization who was certain they needed an LMS.
But it turned out they didn’t actually know what an LMS did or how it could be used! So I started asking questions like, are you sure? What do you want to do with it?
As an Instructional Designer and Learning Technologist, it’s critical to explain what an LMS or CRM system does for non-profit organizations. They might need someone to translate the tech speak so they can figure out how they can make use of the system. Remember, these are employees who were hired for their community outreach skills—they haven’t been hired for their digital know-how.
Employees will be more receptive to adopting a new system if they understand how it helps them be more impactful and efficient.
Make non-profit learning sticky
Learning something new is hard work. For many non-profit organizations, the idea that information should be living, breathing and on something called the Cloud can be a brand new concept (especially for smaller ones or those run by an older generation).
Here are a few ways to introduce new CRM or LMS technology to non-profit organizations so that it sticks:
Start employee learning sooner—not later
Do not wait until the end of an implementation project to start enabling non-profit employees! Achieving adoption for new technology requires communicating with staff early and often.
Start by giving staff or internal users an idea of what the CRM or LMS is. Bring them into the conversations. Get their input. Show them what it looks like.
Employees who feel that their voices are heard will be more engaged with the roll-out than those who feel that they aren’t valued throughout the adoption process.
Be sure to incorporate enablement throughout the duration of the implementation and build that learning into employee onboarding.
Get direct access to the executive director or key knowledge holder
Download as much information as you can from the executive director. Because they know everything—they just haven't had time to enter that information.
However, this is usually the biggest barrier to a smooth implementation process. Executive directors have a million things in their head, but it’s not documented anywhere.
You’ll be far better equipped if you gather answers from the executive director early on. Here are a couple tips for doing so:
Bonus points if you can arrange “brain download” sessions with not only the executive director/key knowledge holder, but also together with employees. With everyone part of the same session, it will encourage knowledge transfer between staff.
Adapt corporate resources for non-profit learning
Yes, you can use corporate learning resources and materials for non-profits—but you have to make the translation for them. Otherwise it just doesn't make sense.
There are tons of videos that corporations use that talk about the "bottom line" and “knowing your sales funnel.” But if you show those to a non-profit crowd, it doesn't sit well. But the concepts are good, right?
So use translation pieces. Explain that CRMs come from the world of sales and retail. Explain how they can use it for community outreach. Make the connection. This will really help get buy-in.
If non-profit employees understand how the CRM or LMS will help them be more productive, they will inevitably feel more open to adopting the technology.
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I’ve had many clients come to me requesting a Storyline course, but after hearing more about their time or budget constraints and doing a needs analysis, I often recommend Articulate Rise instead. Why would I suggest using a rapid course authoring tool like Articulate Rise to develop eLearning deliverables and not the more robust, customizable Storyline? The answer is simple: Agility.
Take this lunch metaphor…
I liken the Rise vs Storyline debate to a business lunch: Sometimes you just need a healthy, but uncomplicated quick lunch at Freshii (where the ingredients are prepared in advance, and you have a menu with set options that are made in front of you while you wait).
Other occasions might call for a different venue: An artisanal, farm-to-table restaurant where you’re having the chef’s daily tasting menu. You’ll wait longer for your meal, and you’ll pay a lot more, but the seasonal ingredients are more likely to be ethically sourced and prepared with care, elevating your meal from a fueling necessity to a shared experience.
Here are some of my favourite features of Articulate 360, and Rise in particular:
What Canadian organizations need to know about Rise 360
If you’re a public authority, provincially-funded charity, or regulatory body in Canada, a cloud-based eLearning tool like Articulate 360 may NOT be a good fit if:
In short, Articulate Rise is the right course authoring tool some of the time: When limited resources or project constraints dictate quick content turnaround, Rise can be more agile than Storyline. If your organization’s requirements pose a barrier to cloud-based tools, then Articulate Rise won’t be a good fit for you. Work with a consultant to leverage other custom course authoring tools instead, and be sure to clearly outline your data management protocols with any external consultant.
Pro-tip: It helps that Storyline 360 is easy to transfer from internal to external teams (and vice-versa), so it’s a convenient way for us consultants to collaborate with internal learning development teams.
Be sure to discuss your requirements and barriers with your eLearning consultant who can help you navigate the many course authoring options out there!
Are you assembling a new learning or training team in your organization? Or onboarding a new employee who has never used eLearning authoring tools before? Here’s why you’ll want to stop and ask yourself a few key questions before you buy that expensive eLearning subscription or software.
Third party course authoring tools like Articulate Storyline™, 360™ or Adobe Captivate™ can be expensive. If $1,600 USD for a subscription to a cloud-based suite of tools seems reasonable to you, think about the extended learning hours, trial and error, and upskilling necessary for your team to get up to speed.
If you’ve read my other article on the benefit of Rise over Storyline, you know you might not need an annual subscription or new tool at all. In fact, many organizations overlook the course authoring tools directly available in their Learning Management System (LMS), and purchase a costly authoring tool to essentially replicate what they could have done via their LMS.
In my experience, organizations just getting started with eLearning are often too quick to purchase a subscription to an eLearning course authoring tool, slow to invest in training on those tools, and in denial about how long it takes to develop decent courses with those same tools.
The result: new employees spend hours developing a hodgepodge of courses without a consistent strategy, template or instructional design principles. Sure, they’ve explored the tool, but how does it align with the business goals?
Questions to determine your organizational readiness for software subscription
Here are the questions I recommend asking before purchasing any annual software subscription; because it’s not just the cost of the software—it’s all the hours your team will spend trying to learn it.
Only invest in learning tools if you can invest in training as well
Yes, it’s definitely a good idea to invest in tools for your learning or training team, but only if you can also invest in training or upskilling your team on those tools. You’ll also want to provide leadership for them to use the tools consistently, align with your organizational goals and create a style guide and guidelines of use (or be prepared for the wild west!)
I’m not saying you shouldn’t support your team with the tools they ask for, and I’m not saying they shouldn’t experiment with new tools. But instead of agreeing right away, ask instead:
Do we have to use Storyline or Articulate 360?
If so, is our internal team resourced for this?
Do we have a plan for using this tool effectively that aligns with our business goals?
For any new system or tool, be prepared to build in discovery time if your team is inexperienced with eLearning software, and be sure to ask for rationales behind their prototypes and samples of work to ensure they’re on the right track.
Pro tip: Hire a consultant to use that eLearning subscription wisely!
A consultant can provide time and cost-saving advice on how best to upskill a team with eLearning software, and work with you to devise effective workflows, a training plan and templates for your team.
A consultant who specializes in learning ecosystems/stacks and learning technology can assess which tools your team needs and how to get them up to speed (or identify if there are any gaps in your current systems that might be holding your team back).
What Makes Learning or Training Sticky?
5 Tips for Hiring the Right Learning Consultant
When to Use Articulate Rise Over Storyline for Your Project
How Much Time Should I Estimate for eLearning Course Development?
7 Instructional Design Types: Who’s Best for Your Business?
Leah Chang is a learning consultant with 16+ years of experience designing online and classroom learning. In her spare time she goes on self-propelled travel adventures and tries to grow vegetables.