Todd Evans, director of professional development at ProLiteracy, recently answered some frequently asked questions about the Adult Literacy Management and Leadership Training online courses available on Education Network.
Q. What are the Adult Literacy Management and Leadership Training online courses?
A. They are courses for executive directors and other staff to help them learn how to manage different aspects of a literacy program. So far we have two topics available: Financial Management and Administrative Management. Two more are currently in development: Human Resource Management and Board Governance. We also plan to develop modules on Marketing, Crisis Management, and Change Management.
Q. Who can benefit from taking these courses?
A. Anyone who doesn’t have a background in nonprofit management or running a literacy program can benefit, but they were specifically designed for new executive directors. A lot of executive directors “rise up through the ranks” of the literacy program. They have a good understanding of teaching someone to read or speak English, but they don’t know a lot about management. They don’t know how to create a budget or read a balance sheet, they don’t know how to create policy manuals or what kind of federal, state, and local reporting they need to do. They don’t know how to recruit, interview, and hire staff. They don’t know who should be on their board or where they should look for board members.
The other common scenario is an executive director who has nonprofit experience, but not in adult education. Many of our literacy programs don’t have good policies, procedures, and documentation in place. So, even if you know how to put together a budget, you may have no idea what elements are in the budget of a literacy program or how to budget for grants, donations, and income. If you also need to replace key staff positions, it can be hard to understand what procedures are needed and how different personnel fit together.
These courses give that new executive director the skills and knowledge they need to get them through the first four or five years of running a literacy program.
Q. Why are these training courses different from other management training courses?
A. First, we focus on the key information you need to know to get started. We identify the things you will need to do right away, like create a budget or re-engage the board, and we give you processes and strategies to do it.
We keep things simple. We use everyday language. We provide easy-to-follow steps. We provide lots of opportunities for you to practice and apply what you learn. We provide lots of examples from the field. And we provide lots of templates and checklists for you to use.
The courses are written by executive directors of literacy programs. The information is based on their own experiences, as well as surveys of our field to tell us what they need.
Finally, all of this information is contextualized in an adult education environment. The budgeting template has real line items from small and large literacy programs. The manuals and handbooks are examples we’ve gathered from literacy programs.
Q. Why did you create the Adult Literacy Management and Leadership Training online courses?
A. We’ve seen a lot of turnover in executive directors in the last 10 or so years. We know that there are people out there running literacy programs who need help, who need support, who need someone to point them in the right direction.
We know that a lot of business training or nonprofit management training is either too advanced, too expensive, isn’t relevant to literacy programs, or takes too long to take. Our new executive directors need to hit the ground running. They need something quick and relevant.
Lynn Reed, our board member that advocated for this training and funded it, ran a literacy program herself. She spent a lot of time thinking about what she needed when she first started, and talking to other executive directors about what they need.
Q. How can I access this course?
A. The courses are available on ProLiteracy Education Network. You can find out more about the courses at https://www.proliteracyednet.org/leadership. If you decide to take them, create an account on Education Network and then you can access the courses from the Welcome page. They are $45 per topic for members, and $150 per topic for nonmembers.