Delivering Training



Welcome to the e-learning lesson on Delivering Training. When carefully planned and executed, training can offer many benefits to nonprofit organizations and those involved with organizational capacity building. Effective training can enhance employee performance, motivate staff and board members, foster collaboration within and among organizations, and ultimately, save time and money. At the end of this lesson, you will be able to recognize the key steps involved in creating a training plan, identify the phases of a systems approach to training, apply adult learning principles to training scenarios, and assess the benefits and drawbacks of online training.

This lesson will help you design and deliver training that meets organizations' needs.

For nonprofit organizations, training can be an excellent way to develop staff and board member skills and build organizational capacity. However, high-impact training requires careful planning and development. It also requires an understanding of adult learning principles.

In this lesson you will learn about the importance of a well-thought-out training plan and the steps involved in creating one. You will also identify the phases that comprise a systems approach to training, as well as effective strategies for working with adult learners. In addition, you’ll assess the pros and cons of online training.

Training has short- and long-term benefits.

Training is designed to teach key concepts and skills related to a particular topic. It can be delivered in small or large group settings, or online. Training can be a good value for the money involved and provide valuable peer-learning opportunities.

If you assess several organizations in your community and find a common need, training (rather than individual technical assistance) will be the most efficient and effective method to address that specific need. Training opens the door to building communities of practice among organizations, ongoing peer learning, and deeper, more focused technical assistance.

CHAPTER 1: Creating a Training Plan

If your organization is going to provide ongoing training, it’s a good practice to create a training plan. This includes establishing a set schedule with date, time, location, and topic for each training provided over the course of a specific time period, such as a month, season, or year. You can then use the training plan to market and advertise your training opportunities. This will also allow potential participants to plan according to their needs. To create your plan, think through your general approach. What is important to you about how training is conducted? What are some of the constraints you must live within? What standards do you want for the training that’s offered? The key steps for creating your training plan are to assess community needs, prioritize the need areas, and create the plan.

The first step in creating a training plan is to assess community needs.

Training is an efficient venue to present widely needed information to many people at one time. When determining what training to provide, it’s essential to know what needs exist across the community. The needs that are common across many organizations are the topics that are best covered through training.

There are several ways to determine the needs in the community. If you are providing technical assistance in the geographic area, you’re likely to have several organizational assessments to draw from to determine the common needs. You can also identify needs by sending a community-wide survey to nonprofit executives. Or you might conduct informal conversations with nonprofit leaders and review available reports. A combination of all of these tactics will yield the most accurate results.

The second step in creating a training plan is to prioritize training needs.

After the community assessment, you should have identified a list of training topics needed by the nonprofits in your community. Most of the time, the list of potential topics will exceed the number of training opportunities available. Start with the following questions to prioritize your list of topics:

Once you’ve created a prioritized list, determine whether each topic can be covered within a single training. For example, if the topic “financial management” made it to the top of the list, you might determine that it needs to be addressed with a series of trainings. But if you know that the primary need within the topic of financial management is creating a budget, you might decide to meet that need with a single training session. By drilling the topics down to single trainings before moving to the next step, you’ll facilitate the process of creating your plan.

The final step is to create the plan based on information gained in prior steps.

When you commit your training plan to paper, you’ll include information such as the tentative or finalized dates, length of each training, topic of each training, and possibly the location and facilitator of each training. As you schedule trainings, ensure that you consider the days and times that work best for the nonprofit leaders in your community. This might also be a good time to consider whether in-person training or virtual training is best, given the geographic area, topic, and budget.

Review the draft plan to ensure that it provides variety related to the subject matter, knowledge levels, methods of delivery, and other factors you’d like to vary through the training series. Consider showing the plan to a few nonprofit leaders in your target audience to get feedback.

CHAPTER 2: Systems Approach to Training

Once the training plan has been established, it’s time to direct your attention to each individual training session within the plan. This chapter will take you through the process of developing and delivering training using a systems approach. By using a systems approach you’ll be able to create high-quality training events.

The five phases in a systems approach to training are analyze, design, develop, implement, and evaluate.

You may have heard these steps referred to as Instructional Systems Design, or ISD. It is also called ADDIE after the first letter of each phase of the training development and delivery system. No matter which term you use, a systems approach to designing and delivering training helps you stay attuned to the participants, work more efficiently, and achieve measurable outcomes.

Analyze the needs of your audience.

The ADDIE approach is an orderly process to help you work smarter and train better. The first phase of the process is analysis. In the analysis phase, look at the situation and the needs of the participants to determine what each specific training must include. The analysis can be exhaustive and include written surveys of all participants and thorough document reviews. On the other hand, it can be as simple as a few phone calls or informal questions asked of the likely participants.

The key benefit of a successful analysis phase is ensuring that every training session you offer meets the needs of the target audience.  Additional benefits include:

Design the training experience.

The design phase involves building the skeleton of your training. In this phase you determine many elements, including:

Some aspects of the analysis and design phases of the ADDIE approach might already begin while the training plan is being created. There is significant overlap between the analysis and design phases and the steps needed to create the training plan. However, it’s still important to be intentional when thinking through the design for each individual training. The benefits of a successful design phase include:

Develop the materials you will need.

In the development phase, you take the skeleton created during the design phase and fill it in to create a valuable learning experience for participants. This involves developing the instructor lesson plan, participant handouts, and selected media, such as PowerPoint presentations, video, or audio.

At this point, it’s important to think through the training session from the learner’s perspective. Consider using small groups or interactive activities to increase knowledge retention. A good rule of thumb is to aim for 50% presentation and 50% participation. Presentation includes delivering new information. Participation is any interactive teaching method, such as role play, simulation, discussion, demonstration, or opportunity to practice. During the development phase, identify presentation methods and participant activities that are appropriate for the content.

All adults have previous learning and predetermined ideas – correct or incorrect – about any topic being presented. Participants will adopt and interpret new information based on their pre-existing mental frameworks. It’s the facilitator’s job to present the framework that he or she will use to provide new information in a way that clears people’s minds and prepares them to learn. The facilitator also needs to bring everyone into the conversation, establish a shared vocabulary for purposes of the training session, and set and manage learner expectations.

The benefits of dedicating time to the development phase are:

Implement the training experience.

In this phase, a skillful trainer engages the participants and brings the lesson plan to life. As the training is conducted, the participants gain practical information that they can practice and apply in their workplaces. This can have a significant positive impact on their organizations. The trainer should be an instructor, guide, coach, and/or facilitator. Trainers need to be familiar with adult learning principles and should review them before entering a training session to best incorporate them into their facilitation. When implementing the training session, it is important to prepare participants by helping them identify their own personal learning goals and by helping them be “present” for the experience.

Presenting new information is critical to implementing a session. Lecture can be effective if you actively elicit group participation or stop every 10 minutes and instruct participants to share their thoughts and questions in pairs or small groups. Otherwise, it’s best to use more engaging and interactive forms of presenting new information. Ideally in the development phase, you’ve identified several methods and activities for presenting new information. The trainer’s goal in the implementation phase is to use methods that the participants will be most responsive to.

The benefits of well-implemented training include:

Evaluate for ongoing improvement.

Although evaluation is the last phase of the ADDIE process, it actually occurs at every point along the way: analysis, design, development, during implementation, and after implementation. In the early phases, you’re evaluating the work you’ve done and your preparedness to move into the next phase.

The design phase is when you identify the intended outcomes of the training session and their indicators. This is the best time to ask yourself how you will know whether the learning objectives have been met and what kind of impact the session has had on participants’ behaviors.

During implementation, you’re evaluating your participants’ knowledge and body language and adapting your session as you go to meet their needs. Trainers often ask learners to reflect on the impact and quality of the training at the end of the session through an evaluation form. This is one way to measure whether you met the objectives of the session.

And finally, after implementation, you are evaluating whether the session led to changes in behavior for the participants. Great training organizations check back to see how these changes in behavior have affected the organizations, their practices, and their outcomes.

There are many benefits to evaluation, which include:

CHAPTER 3: Adult Learning Principles

Educators and trainers who teach adults have been using the core principles outlined by adult learning theory since the 1970s. Although adult learning principles are phrased in various ways by training professionals, the substance is consistent. Four core principles of adult learning are: incorporate participants’ prior learning and experience, create a safe space for all participants, respect learners as individuals, and include structured activities in your training session. When adult learning principles are not incorporated into training sessions, participants will be less engaged and their opportunities for learning will be diminished. Effective trainers intentionally incorporate strategies into both their training design and their facilitation style to directly address each of these adult learning principles.

Incorporate adults’ prior learning and experience.

It’s important to capitalize on the rich prior experience that adult learners have when they enter the training by incorporating that experience into the session. Also, inaccurate information that people think is correct can be a significant impediment to new learning. By drawing out prior experience, you can correct learners’ misinformation.

Here are a few strategies for incorporating prior knowledge and experience into your training session:

Create a safe space for learners.

Adults may feel vulnerable when they’re learning something new. The trainer can support learners’ comfort levels by using low-risk activities, reassurance, and a plan for building incremental successes. Concepts and skills should be presented in a strategic sequence, from simple to complex and from group-supported to solo.

Here are some additional strategies to create a “safe space” for learners:  

Respect participants as individuals.

Establish sound relationships with participants. Model and encourage respect and open communication. Provide for their needs with adequate breaks and use their time effectively. It’s also helpful to solicit learners’ input on the training schedule or process.

Here are some strategies for incorporating this adult learning principle into your training session:

Include structured activities in your training.

There are three aspects involved in learning: ideas (cognitive), feelings (affective), and actions (behavioral). Adults learn best when training moves beyond ideas and feelings to incorporate actions as well. That is, training that provides opportunities to practice new skills will increase the likelihood that learners will apply the new knowledge and behaviors in their own environments. Also, participants are more likely to believe and retain the information they’ve learned if they arrive at the ideas themselves. Structured activities can foster the exploration that learners need in order to make their own connections and conclusions.

Here are a few strategies to incorporate activities into your training session:

CHAPTER 4: Learning Styles

When you deliver a training session, you will soon notice that learners have different preferences for receiving information. The three primary learning styles are visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Although we can learn in all three ways, most people have a preference for one of these styles over the others. To be effective with a variety of learners, training must incorporate strategies that appeal to all three learning styles.

Here are some training strategies that appeal to visual learners.

Visual learners may be bored by lectures. Combine PowerPoint slides with lectures to garner their attention. Also, show videos, movie clips, or online visual media. Write key words and draw images on a flipchart or whiteboard. To create a good environment for people with this learning style, you can also show and explain diagrams. Ask them to draw a picture. Include plenty of content in your handouts. Provide extra material to read after your session.

Here are some training strategies that appeal to auditory learners.

Auditory learners typically enjoy lectures and may be able to learn from them, with or without taking notes. Some may find reading tedious or difficult, but appreciate hearing material read out loud. To create a good environment for auditory learners, use lecture, question and answer segments, and discussions. Play a song to illustrate a point or use background music when appropriate. Auditory learners enjoy having breakout groups to discuss the content and hear the perspectives of others. Also, allow time at the end of the session to summarize your main points and allow for additional questions.

Here are some training strategies that appeal to kinesthetic learners.

Kinesthetic learners may get restless with long or frequent lectures. They can become quickly bored if they’re not active. Taking notes helps them concentrate on a presentation. Using a highlighter helps them when they’re reading material. To create a good environment for kinesthetic learners, use creative activities that get people out of their chairs and doing something interesting. Put Play-Doh, pipe cleaners, stress balls, or other objects at their tables so they can do something with their hands. Hold standing discussion groups in the four corners of the room. Take frequent stretch breaks, even if you don’t leave the room.

CHAPTER 5: Blended Learning

When providing training, some goals and objectives lend themselves to in-person instruction, while others can be effectively achieved through e-learning programs. In such instances, you can incorporate both methods of instruction into a “blended” learning program. Blended learning experiences combine both e-learning and classroom-based methods into one instructional system. Blended learning allows you to strategically assign the appropriate method of instructional delivery for each learning objective. The media used to deliver blended learning include traditional classroom or laboratory settings; reading assignments; performance support tools, such as job aids; tele-video conference training; recorded “on-demand” web-based training; and real-time web-based training, known as “webinars.”

Blended learning can be an effective way to achieve your training objectives.

Blended learning offers the best that instructor-led and online learning have to offer. By combining high-quality instructor-led training with media-rich content, powerful technology solutions, and web 2.0 tools, a blended learning platform can support a wide variety of learning styles and offer a rich, interactive experience. Blended learning provides the flexibility needed to learn on demand, at the convenience of the participant and the organization.

Here are some ideas for using blended learning solutions.

Some examples of blended learning packages include:

CHAPTER 6: Using Online Tools to Provide Training

With the wide array of opportunities that exist on the Internet, nonprofits can and should enhance their training by using online tools. In fact, because nonprofits are collaborative in nature, they can be the driving force behind testing and proving the impact of social networking and training tools now available on the web. The opportunities that online tools provide are endless and depend on your needs and situation. However, many people are reluctant to adopt new technology. It’s important to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of any tool before you adopt it. Specific pros and cons will vary depending on the tool and the goals of the training provider. If you decide that using online tools is the right way to go, you’ll need to determine which tools will fit best with your organization's goals and the needs of your learners.

There are many benefits of using online tools

There are many benefits of using online tools for training. For instance, remote trainings reduce travel and logistical costs. Therefore, providers might be able to deliver ten trainings instead of four because of the cost savings. Online training can also be used to build a sense of community among dispersed organizations. Many tools allow for frequent communication among training participants, either via chat boards, discussion boards, or email.

Many of the tools allow for on-demand usage, allowing ultimate flexibility for busy people. Knowledge from trainings can be retained through recordings that can be easily accessed anytime online. This availability maximizes the reach of training. Also, because you can store documents and resources online, you’re able to share resources quickly and easily. Another major benefit of online tools is that they can accommodate people’s differing schedules. Fortunately, there are online training tools that have a free or low-cost option for at least the basic services.

There are also some drawbacks to using online tools.

There are also some drawbacks to using online tools for training. First, any technology has the possibility of failure. You could be in the middle of an online training and have technical difficulty. Also, you must allocate adequate time to implement online tools correctly. Of course, new technologies are constantly being created, and you will regularly need to evaluate your options and determine whether to go for the “newer and better” or stick with the current tool. Usually, sticking with the same tool for the long-term is best.

Some people are uncomfortable with technology and are still reluctant to try it out. Research on the demographics of social networking usage is always coming out. Before using any social networking media, check online for the latest research to assess whether it is appropriate for your target audience. Don't assume anyone is too old to be using the latest technology! Another potential drawback of online learning is the lack of human interaction. Certain training topics might be better suited to classroom instruction. Virtual trainings might prove impersonal and offer less opportunity for participant interaction and communication cues than in-person training.

CHAPTER 7: Helpful Tips and Reminders

After you finish assessing and prioritizing training needs, create the plan for your training “season,” whether it’s for a month, six months, or a year. Then direct your attention to the individual trainings and follow a systems approach to developing and delivering each session. And finally, incorporate knowledge about adult learning principles and diverse learning styles into your design and facilitation. Using these steps and processes can produce trainings that have a measurable impact for the nonprofit organizations in your community.

Following these “Dos” can help you deliver effective training.

You must follow important principles to create and deliver training that meets the needs of the organizations in your community. Below is a list of training “dos” that can lead to successful training outcomes.

Avoiding these “Don’ts” can help you deliver effective training.


For nonprofits of all types, training can provide tremendous value as a method for building organizational capacity. Whether you decide on classroom training, e-learning, or blended learning, your training will be bolstered by incorporating knowledge about adult learning principles and learning styles. But most importantly, be sure to follow a systems approach to training. By doing this you will be able to deliver programs that meet or exceed your learners’ expectations. Thank you for taking the time to learn about delivering training.

These web-based resources can help you create and deliver effective training.

You can find useful training ideas and material on these websites:

Here are some websites for online survey tools:

These text-based resources can help you create and deliver effective training.