Giving the Invaluable Gift of Learning

July 16, 2013Julie Brandt

Unlike the private sector, which spends upwards of $1,200 per employee on learning and development,[1] allocating the resources to develop and manage talent is a significant hurdle for nonprofits—particularly given an organization’s many competing priorities and the limited funding for human capital needs. A new campaign, The Overhead Myth, has recently taken the nonprofit world by storm with this very issue.

Started by three leading sources of information on nonprofits—GuideStar, Charity Navigator and BBB Wise Giving Alliance—The Overhead Myth seeks to end the notion that a nonprofit’s performance should be evaluated based on their overhead ratio alone. Many donors today believe that low overhead costs are more important than the demonstrated success of a nonprofit’s programs, despite research that displays how strong infrastructure and training programs facilitate better performance among both enterprises and nonprofits.

And given that most individuals come to a job expecting growth and development opportunities, we know that unless they have training programs in place, nonprofits will continually struggle to attract and retain skilled talent needed to increase the impact of their programs and services and deliver on their missions. At the Cornerstone OnDemand Foundation, we’ve been developing programs to support the human capital capacity among nonprofits since 2010, and are excited to see others speak to this critical issue facing the nonprofit sector.

Designed for Nonprofit Professionals Who Do Everything         


We established the Gift of Learning program (GOL) in 2011—leveraging Cornerstone’s award-winning learning management system, we developed an online career development site ( that features e-learning, videos, business book summaries and other training resources. Since the launch of GOL, we have served more than 4,000 nonprofit professionals and over 1,000 nonprofit organizations. Leading organizations such as Boys and Girls Clubs, Boys Town, Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP), Stand for Children, Union Rescue Mission, and YMCA have taken advantage of the free training and development opportunities available through GOL.

I’m proud of our contribution to develop nonprofit talent through the Gift of Learning so far—all too often we are hearing that, for many of our participating organizations, this is the first time their staff members are receiving access to training and professional development of any kind.

For this reason, we have added more sector-relevant content to better reflect the diverse training needs and priorities of nonprofits. Today, the GOL provides customized curriculum to support the most common job families in the nonprofit sector: fundraising, leadership, accounting and finance, marketing and communications, operations, volunteer engagement, and program management.

Also as part of our enhancements to GOL, we have designed an e-learning course in collaboration with Blue Avocado’s Jan Masaoka. We’re making this course, “The Role of Nonprofit Board Members in Revenue Generation,” available to all nonprofit professionals and board members through August 15, 2013.

If you are part of a nonprofit organization interested in offering GOL to your membership or employees, please contact us at


[1] American Society for Training & Development, “2012 State of the Industry Report: Organizations Continue to Invest in Workplace Learning.” November 8, 2012. Available at


About Julie Brandt

As Executive Director of the Cornerstone OnDemand Foundation, Julie Brandt is responsible for developing and driving the growth, reach, and sustainability of the Foundation. Prior to joining the Foundation, Ms. Brandt advised companies and individuals on their... more


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