The King County Non-Profit Staff Development Coalition Project - Identifying a Need and Meeting It
By Cal Crow
Established in 2003 in the Greater Seattle area, the Non-Profit Staff Development Coalition (NPSDC) is a community collaborative partnership of more than forty organizations committed to increasing the knowledge, skills and effectiveness of their respective staffs. By recognizing the critical role of learning in the changing economy and workplace, NPSDC helps individuals representing diverse populations grow in both their personal and professional lives.
NPSDCD is a prime example of the adage, “Find a need and fill it.” Late in the last century, when Welfare-to-Work legislation became law, and new programs were springing up around the country, the Center for Learning Connections (CLC) received a state contract to provide training for front-line staff from any Washington State agency, public or private, that served Welfare-to-Work participants. There was no charge for this training. In Washington State, these programs were called WorkFirst. CLC offered workshops throughout the state on a variety of topics requested by WorkFirst staff and administrators. Community based non-profit organizations that worked with WorkFirst staff also participated in these workshops and saw their training needs being met. Because the purpose was to help participants acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to become self-sufficient, much of the training had a career development flavor.
NPSDC’s staff development activities are generated by a committee representing member organizations. The committee requests education and training specifically designed to improve service delivery, program coordination and management, and leadership development. The result has been significant improvement and long-term sustainability in services for customers of the coalition’s members.
Three years into the program, budgets were cut, and the training contract was discontinued, although staff development needs still existed. Larger agencies were able to continue some scaled-back training for their staffs, but the smaller non-profits were not able to do so. Anna McCain (Project Manager of NPSDC), who had been involved in coordinating the statewide training, suggested that CLC create a coalition of non-profits in the Greater Seattle area (King County) to carry on this work. She contacted eight of the larger non-profit human service organizations, presented the idea for a collaborative partnership to nurture and strengthen the focus on staff’s professional and personal development, and NPSDC was born in May 2003. For the past decade, staff representatives from NPSDC’s member organizations have met regularly to discuss their staff development needs, and worked collaboratively, together with CLC, to develop and deliver relevant training.
Providing Quality Professional Development Collaboratively
The coalition is collaborative. Members decide on the kind of training they want, and the outcomes they expect. Coalition members get a reduced rate on any training their staff attends. Because the training is so popular and of such high quality, many public sector agencies send staff to coalition training. People from other counties also attend, and are exploring the possibility of setting up similar coalitions in their geographic areas.
As of August 2013, the Non-Profit Staff Development Coalition (NPSDC) has offered 136 workshops on a variety of topics, many related to the career development of staff and customers. Examples of topics included:
- dependable strengths
- Appreciative Inquiry
- motivational interviewing
- time management, self-efficacy and resiliency
- cultural competence in the workplace
- communication in the workplace
- managing time and information
- workplace ethics
- conflict resolution
- creating effective work plans
- high-performance work teams
- engaging staff
- Emotional Intelligence
Since its beginning in 2003, over 2,000 non-profit staff members have attended the Coalition’s workshops.
In addition to NPSDC, CLC is the parent organization for two other projects. One is the Veterans Training Support Center (VTSC), which designs and provides training for professionals who serve veterans, and the Center for Efficacy and Resiliency (CER), which offers free-standing training for professionals in education, corrections, workforce development, and social service agencies. All of these projects complement each other. It would not be unusual to walk into a CER training session and find in attendance representatives from homeless agencies who serve formerly incarcerated veterans who are having difficulty finding employment and want to continue their education. As these professionals return to their respective agencies and describe the training they just attended, it is entirely possible that a similar workshop will be requested in the future by NPSDC.
As NPSDC enters its second decade, it continues to be a respected and effective example of non-profits joining forces and collaborating to provide quality professional development for their collective staffs.
Cal Crow, Ph.D., is a co-founder and Program Director at the Center for Learning Connections. He has been a high school teacher and counselor, a community college program coordinator and instructor, a university lecturer, a counselor in private practice, a trainer and a consultant. He holds a Ph.D. from Arizona State University. Dr. Crow was one of three individuals selected to revise the National Career Development Guidelines, and co-authored the revised Job Hunter Guide for Washington State’s One-stop system. His written materials and ideas are being used in schools and other organizations throughout the country. Dr. Crow has received numerous awards for his contributions to education, counseling, and workforce development. He can be reached at