Peer Skill Share Micro-grants
The Pierce Family Foundation has structured a unique program called Peer Skill Share, designed to invest in the professional skills of nonprofit employees, who are not only serving their current employer agency, but are likely to continue as skilled workers in the nonprofit sector. We see this program as not only building the capacity of specific agencies at this time, but also building the capacity of the sector overall, by our providing professional development to individual nonprofit leaders.
The Foundation arranges for nonprofits to help each other via "skill share" sessions, where grantees can get one-on-one advice from peers on specific needs. Since there is time involved on both sides, PFF offers both the volunteer trainer and the trainee a $200 stipend, to get together for a couple of hours and address the requested topic.
To determine needs and matches, twice each year the Foundation surveys its grantees and asks them to name two or three things they could use advice on from a peer, and two or three areas in which they have expertise which they would enjoy sharing. Agencies do not have to offer something themselves in order to request a colleague's help in return. Foundation staff then reviews the responses and makes matches. Once matched, it is up to the two organizations to arrange a date and work out details on their own. The skill share sessions usually last one or two hours, and once completed, the Foundation simply requires a brief email reporting on the session in order to send the stipend checks to each skill share partner agency.
Topics selected by grantees have been wide-ranging, and matches have often been between organizations that might otherwise not cross paths. The Peer Skill Share program enables grantees to get the kind of help they most value—focused, tailored to their specific needs, and typically on-site—and be compensated for their time rather than paying a workshop fee. For the Foundation, this a low-cost way to provide targeted technical assistance; we see an important additional benefit coming from the relationships that are developed across nonprofits, enabling organizations and their staffs to become much more familiar with each other than they might otherwise be.
Some of our recent Peer Skill Share topics have included:
- How to use the National Change of Address service to find donors you have lost track of
- How to use certain tabs in Raiser's Edge software
- Screening staff for motivation in early interviews
- Basics of capital campaigns
- Better ways of retaining volunteers
- LGBTQ inclusion
- Upgrading QuickBooks proficiency
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