Lessons learned from 16 months in a home office.

The spring of 2020 was a crucial period of adjustment for Candid and its training programs. As we documented in this blog entry, Candid’s programs team made a serious effort to find out what the nonprofits we work with needed and wanted to know and learn during their adjustment to the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. At the time, we just wanted to provide the best assistance we could using methods we knew were safe. 

Now, in summer 2021, as masks are (mostly) less prevalent, and people learn how to go back to restaurants, gather for parties, and (maybe even) drive to the office again, you may be wondering: what have we learned by the great “virtual experiment”—and will we return to normal soon? 

screenshot of a guest speaker at our one of our virtual proposal writing boot camps. Her background is the Golden Gate Bridge

The “no” normal

Well, the answer to that last question is no. The changes demanded by COVID-19 also helped us learn that many things about virtual learning are highly attractive. So if returning to “normal” means eliminating the best of virtual trainings, then we don’t intend to be normal!

Perhaps the best example of this is our Proposal Writing Boot CampThis program is the cornerstone of our training classes. It’s a hands-on, multi-day workshop in which every student creates a peer-reviewed grant request that can be used for their foundation fundraising. Peers and experts from Candid cooperate in offering the training and reviewing submissions from the students. 

We worried that moving an intensive class like this to the virtual realm (a four-session, one-day-a-week training) would be a challenge. But we also discovered a few things we didn’t expect: 

  • Attendees enjoyed not having to travel to a different city, worry about parking, find a hotel, find a good restaurant, find a forgotten phone charger, etc., etc. There’s something immensely appealing about walking a few steps to a computer and being able to join in a very interactive class happening 1,000 miles (or more) away.
  • The instructors also enjoyed being able to collaborate with each other without doing the same travel and logistical planning that in-person training requires of participants. Our last Boot Camp had instructors and guest speakers from San Diego, DC, Brooklyn, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Cleveland. 
     
  • The training itself came alive in ways we couldn’t have anticipated—small groups of nonprofit staff working together from different parts of the country (and different countries!) helped each other create need statements, logic models, and letters of inquiry over the course of the class. Here are what a few attendees have said about our trainings:
    • It's been years since I took a class and written a grant, I needed a ground-up refresher. Even when the instructors restated a piece of information, they did so simply and clearly. That's good for a group meeting across state and cultural lines.
    • I very much appreciated the facilitators' willingness to work around student schedules as much as they could since we all have full time jobs outside of this class. I also appreciated the thought processes explained in peer review from the instructor and the way they led peers and myself to think critically about my LOI
    • I appreciated their ability to make a two-hour Zoom lecturefun! They were goofy and easy-going yet intelligible and committed to our learning. They all worked together very seamlessly in the live sessions, despite being in different locations. I enjoyed how they split up the material that we discussed, so it wasn't one person covering all of the content for the duration of the class

screenshot of one of our staff teaching at a proposal writing boot camp. She is showing a slide about a needs statement

What works best? 

Can virtual sessions totally replace in-person learning? Of course not. As people feel safer and can meet again, we’ll be holding in-person trainings, networking opportunities, and regional convenings (you’ll see them on our training calendar). However, for the foreseeable future, we’ll be bringing people together virtually and learning new ways to make virtual trainings as interactive and fun as possible. 

So, check us out from your own home! If you want to register for any of our trainings, you can always visit our Candid Learning page. A few of our upcoming live virtual workshops and webinars are listed below—and you can email us at [email protected] if you have a question! 

  • Outcomes Thinking and Management: Learn how nonprofit organizations can develop frameworks for tracking the outcomes and impact of their work, and how to successfully articulate that to funders.
  • Creating Quality Participant Surveys: What to Ask and How to Ask It: Join this webinar to ensure you are asking the right questions and measuring the data that matters in your participant surveys.
  • Nonprofit Risk Management Essentials: In this webinar, we’ll teach you how to keep your nonprofit flexible and adaptive in the COVID-19 era, as well as next steps for identifying and mitigating potential threats.
  • Leadership Circle for Executive Directors: Join this weekly five-part peer learning group for executive directors of small nonprofit organizations to share challenges and strategies for personal and organizational success.

About the Author(s)

David Holmes (he/him) Programs Manager - Midwest Candid

Subscribe to our blog

When we publish a new blog post, you’ll get notified by email.

Interested in being a guest writer for our blog? Learn how