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What’s In Your Budget?

February 20, 2024, Leah Craig Chumbley

Here’s what happened when the leadership team at Brother Wolf Animal Rescue got CE funding

When Leah Craig Chumbley told several of the Brother Wolf Animal Rescue leadership team members that their 2023 budget had funds earmarked for their continuing education, they were ecstatic. Here’s what they did with those funds.

We know that employees need autonomy, mastery, and purpose to thrive. Within animal welfare, our purpose is evident. Growing your team’s mastery—and then trusting them to have higher levels of autonomy—can be fueled through a creative use of a continuing education (CE) budget.

Unfortunately, CE line items in animal welfare organization budgets are typically quite small. When I told several of our Brother Wolf Animal Rescue leadership team members that our 2023 budget had funds earmarked for their continuing education (CE), they were ecstatic! Our organization had been in a period of financial recovery, during which CE funding could not be prioritized. Now with this new opportunity, our improvement-focused team was eager to use this funding to grow professionally. Following are some of the creative ways they used it.

Audible: There’s a world of learning to be had in books, and listening to them can be a more convenient option for soaking up that content. Some team members used their CE budget to purchase a year-long Audible subscription or to purchase Audible credits, both of which were used to buy leadership development books (Jim Collins, Brene Brown, Simon Sinek, Dan Sullivan, Joan Garry, Adam Grant, etc). I now listen to an audiobook on most of my work commutes and find that talking about them with others at work increases their impact. Consuming that kind of content invigorates me, leads to new ideas within the team, and continues my own self growth.

The CliftonStrengths Assessment: Gallup offers CliftenStrengths Assessments for managers and leaders. This online survey gives an individual insights into their strengths, helps them understand what they naturally do best as a manager/leader, and encourages them to invest in their strengths and apply them with more intentionality. Understanding who you are as a manager/leader and how those traits contribute to (or get in the way of) your success is critical to leading a team. I love seeing our staff pair this assessment with individual coaching to really dive into the results and ignite action.

Individual Coaching: As they say, if Serena Williams needs a coach, you do, too. No matter where we’re at in life, working with a professional coach can help in so many areas: leadership, clarity, focus, interpersonal skills, confidence, motivation, accountability. A professional leadership coach can help you leverage your strengths as well as identify, and see more clearly and with more openness, the areas that need improvement. Several of our team members used their CE budget for individual coaching; I have really seen the impact it’s made in the way they show up at work.

MasterClass Subscription: On the homepage of the MasterClass website right now is a question, “What brings you to MasterClass today?” The first answer is “Improve my professional or leadership skills,” so it’s no wonder that this site is bursting with educational and inspirational content. Several of our team members chose to use their CE budget to purchase a year-long MasterClass subscription to learn from high-achieving professionals through engaging, digestible video series. One of our managers watched a few of the MasterClass series with her direct reports, therefore expanding the impact of those lessons and growing as a team.

360 Review: Annual reviews are great, but they often don’t include feedback from more than one or two people. A third-party 360 Review of a leadership team member would include feedback from peers, superiors, and subordinates. This can be especially useful for an Executive Director seat. Since their bosses (the members of the board of directors) don’t typically work alongside them on a daily basis, other feedback is critical for them to understand how they are doing.

Enroll in a Course: Seek out a local college course or practitioner to advance your skills in a certain area. At Brother Wolf Animal Rescue, we’ve found that developing skills in compassionate communication through local courses in our town, has helped staff navigate conflict resolution and deepen their empathy in challenging situations with the public and colleagues. We’ve also brought in subject matter experts to do in-person trainings with our teams on specific topics, such as fundraising and dog/cat body language.

Leadership Program: Each year, Brother Wolf Animal Rescue enrolls a staff member in a local leadership program in our town, Leadership Asheville through UNC-A. This program includes leadership assessments for the participant, tons of learning, and meaningful interactions with other leaders in our community. The team member who participates gains a wealth of knowledge, expands their connections with others working to grow and change our community. They also helped build a roster of potential board members for the organization through their new professional contacts.

Board of Directors Training: Your board members need CE too. At Brother Wolf Animal Rescue, we worked with a local nonprofit consultant to do a half-day best practices training with our board members. This helped us assess what’s going well, and what needs some work, within our board.

Online Webinars and Conferences: Throughout the year, our leadership team members participated in online webinars and conferences to advance their skill sets in animal welfare, leadership, marketing, finance, human resources, volunteer management, and more. Animal welfare CE content through organizations like The Association, ASPCApro, Maddie’s Fund and HSUS’ HumanePro is a great way to learn from others and expand your professional network.

At Brother Wolf Animal Rescue, our CE budget was 0.5% of our overall spending in 2023. But earmarking those funds for CE use had a positive impact on the forward growth of the members of our leadership team and on the organization as a whole. (CE increases retention!)

I hope others feel inspired to put CE in their budgets, no matter how small you might start out. There are endless, creative ways for employees to gain higher levels of mastery and to use those talents to serve the animals we all care so much about. I found the ways in which the members of my team utilized those resources to be so creative and innovative that it inspired me to share their efforts with others. It even changed how I’ll be using my own continuing education budget in the year ahead.

More from Leah Craig

Blog: A Place Where All Living Beings Thrive
Roundtable Recording: Help Your Team Thrive

About Leah Craig Chumbley
Leah Craig is the Executive Director of Brother Wolf Animal Rescue. She has worked in the nonprofit sector since 2009. Throughout her career, Leah Craig has gained diverse experience in marketing, fundraising, leadership, and communications. She is glad to use these skills to support Brother Wolf's lifesaving work.

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