If I Knew then What I Know Now: Lessons Learned from the Impact Grant Recipients
Our annual Impact Grant cycle is in full swing. Started in 2012, the Impact Grant program enables nonprofits to expand the reach and impact of an existing education program through online training of their volunteers, beneficiaries, and community partners. Selected organizations receive a two-year donation of Cornerstone OnDemand’s learning and development software, services, and HR consulting, valued at approximately $1 million.
Over the past few weeks we’ve spoken with a number of organizations that are considering the Impact Grant. After attending our introductory webinar that details the requirements, many of these prospective grantees came back with great questions about the implementation process and the skills, time, and resources required to be successful. To address these questions and share their experience with the software, we invited three current grantees to take part in our 2015 Chat with the Grantees:
- Renee Welch, Director of E-Learning and Instructional Services, The Ounce
- Cindy McElhinney, Director of Programs, Darkness to Light (D2L)
- Sarah Berry-Rabun, Sr. Director Learning Strategy, Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA)
The panelists came from three very different organizations in terms of size, target audience, and use of the Cornerstone technology. Over the course of our 1-hour discussion, Renee, Cindy, and Sarah provided many actionable recommendations to any organization considering the Impact Grant or any large-scale technology implementation. Some of the best “lessons learned” from our current Impact Grantees include:
- Think Big! In the case of the Ounce, Renee saw the Impact Grant as their opportunity for transformational impact. Most of their training was being done in person and offered only in Illinois. They soon realized that in order to scale and offer a catalog of courses to a national audience, online training was the only way to do it. D2L, in only the first year of their Impact Grant, went from having trained 10,000 adults on their old online platform to 150,000 using Cornerstone.
- Assign a project owner and ensure their time is properly allocated. Cindy comes from a relatively-small organization, but had one member of her programs team who became the “LMS expert” ended up spending 60-70% of her time on the implementation.
- But don’t try to do it alone. Sarah recommends you have executive-level support before considering the Impact Grant and dedicated staff with the time and talent to manage the project. Renee has a senior-level steering committee that meets regularly to manage the roll-out of their new platform. She compliments the executive team with a learning council made up of training experts from different business units to develop the content and agree upon core functionality of the new LMS.
- Invest in content development. If you don’t have the expertise in house, look for external support. Cindy has worked with Aptara, a media company specializing in digital content development, to roll out an updated version of their Stewards of Children online course. Sarah is working with a consultant in the Foundation’s HR Pro Bono Corps to transform BGCA’s executive onboarding program into a blended curriculum.
- Allow time for a pilot period. Renee has brought in a diverse group of learners in terms of age, geography, and experience levels to provide feedback, test all the systems, and drive some key improvements prior to launch. In addition, the Ounce was able to leverage a few of these beta users to provide testimonials and help spread the word about their new platform.
- Plan your customer support model. D2L struggled initially to provide customer support to the large number of learners on the new system. Cindy explored various customer support models including chat, telephone, and email, before deciding to outsource the customer support function to a third party to address the myriad questions from the 150,000 (and growing) learners taking the Stewards of Children course on the new LMS.
- Don’t expect perfection. Renee recommends you “don’t try to perfect everything right out of the gate.” But have a clear sense of how your organization will track progress for the project and set realistic milestones and measures of success.
Big thanks to The Ounce, Darkness to Light, and Boys and Girls Club of America for taking part in our first-ever Chat with the Impact Grantees. Is your organization ready to join them in leveraging technology to scale an external education program? Find out more about the Impact Grant program today.