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Free Micro eMBA -- How to Provide the Program for Nonprofits

© Copyright Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD, Authenticity Consulting, LLC.

You Can Provide Program with Little in Expertise or Resources!

You have a wonderful opportunity to offer a very low-cost, "nuts and bolts" development program to nonprofits in your area! Offering the program will be much easier than you think. You'll read below about a very straightforward approach called "peer-training groups" that you can use to design and carry out the program. This approach requires little in expertise or resources from you.

First, we'll review some basic considerations in offering any management-related development program. Then we'll review the peer-training group approach that addresses many of the primary considerations in offering a program.

Sections of This Document Include the Following

Primary Considerations in Setting Up Any Development Program

How Peer-Training Groups Make It Easy to Provide the Program

Suggested Number of Meetings Per Learning Module

Regarding Verification and Certification of Learning

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Primary Considerations in Setting Up Any Development Program

There are some fairly standard considerations in setting up and offering any management and organization development program. You'll need to think about the following primary considerations. (Keep in mind that the peer-training process takes care of many of these standard considerations for you!) They include:

  • What do you want to accomplish overall with your Free Nonprofit Micro-eMBA program? Professional development? Organization development? Networking? Complement another training program? Other(s)?
  • How will learners gain the necessary knowledge, skills and abilities to achieve the outcomes that are preferred from the program? Will learners listen to lectures? Do readings? Have discussion? Other(s)?
  • What group(s) of learners will be in your program? New executive directors? Experienced executive directors? Board members? Middle managers? Volunteers? Other(s)?
  • How will learners be organized as they go through the program? In groups/classes? On their own? As part of another program? Other(s)?
  • In the case of an online program, will your learners have consistent access to computers and the World Wide Web?
  • How will you evaluate the quality of the process in your program? How will you identify what outcomes were achieved by learners? How will you show evidence of that learning?
  • What expertise might you need to offer and support the program? Subject-matter experts? Trainers? Evaluators? Advertisers?
  • How will you advertise your program and recruit learners? Advertisements? Newsletters? Classifieds in newspapers? Direct mail? Word of mouth? Other(s)?
  • What materials and facilities do you need? Training materials? Classrooms? Parking spaces? Other(s)?
  • What costs are involved? Trainers? Subject-matter experts? Facilities? Advertising?
  • What fee will you charge learners?
  • Where will you get help if needed?
  • What is involved in kicking off the program?

How Peer-Training Groups Make It Easy to Provide the Program

Peer-Training Incorporates State-of-the-Art Methods of Adult Development

Adults learn best when they a) actually apply new information and materials, and b) exchange ongoing feedback with others around those experiences. Few traditional classroom conditions support these ideal conditions for learning. In most cases, an expert delivers the training and afterwards learners leave the room, seldom to see each other again. Too often, training materials sit on shelves collecting dust -- learners never really apply their new learning. This problem doesn't happen in peer-training groups!

The process in peer-training does provide ideal conditions for learning. The peer-training process is based on the action learning process, which is used across the world for personal, professional and organizational development. The peer-training process was developed by Carter McNamara of Authenticity Consulting, LLC. Sponsors of the Free Nonprofit Micro-eMBA can use the peer-training process to carry out the program in a straightforward fashion that makes little use of high-priced experts and facilities.

Before Peer-Training Begins, Sponsor Markets Program and Recruits Learners

Before the peer-training process begins, the program sponsor organizes learners to go through the program. This involves some basic advertising and promoting about the program. How that marketing is carried out depends very much on the nature and needs of the sponsoring organizations and the locale in which the program is being offered. The sponsor may find the program flyer useful during the local advertising effort.

How the Peer-Training Process Works

Once the group of learners has been organized, here's generally how the peer-training process works. The following sequence repeats itself for each topic in a program.

1. The sponsor provides training materials in regard to a certain topic. (In this case, all of the materials are already completely and available for free in the Free Nonprofit Micro-eMBA.)
2. Learners meet on a regular basis, for example, every two to four weeks in three-hour meetings. Meetings are about three hours long.
3. Between meetings, learners read the training materials in regard to the topic.
4. Each meeting starts with some type of training activity, often just a one-hour, open discussion about the particular topic that the learners had just read about previous to coming to the meeting.
5. Immediately after the one-hour discussion period, learners are organized into groups of 5-7 learners each to do a two-hour peer-training circle (ideally, in separate rooms).
6. In their groups, learners share any materials that they brought to share with other learners in their group, for example, policies, plans, etc., that were developed from applying new information and materials learned during the program
7. In each group meeting, each learner gets a specific amount of time (a time slot of, eg, 20 minutes) to get help from other members of the group. During their time slot, each learner addresses five specific questions, including:
a) How did I apply the new information and materials gleaned from the meeting of two to four weeks ago?
b) What did I learn from applying that information and materials? (It's highly suggested that the learner write down their perceptions of their new learning.)
c) How do I plan to apply the new information and materials gleaned from today's meeting?
d) How can this group of peers help me apply the new information and materials before the next meeting in two to fours weeks?
e) Are there any information and materials that I'd like my peers to bring for me in the next meeting that we'll have in two to four weeks?
8. At the end of that meeting, each member evaluates the quality of that meeting and specifies what could have been done to make the meeting even better.
9. Between meetings, members apply the new information and materials that were gleaned from the previous meeting.

Then steps 1-9 are repeated for each topic, or part of a topic (see Suggested Number of Meetings Per Learning Module), in the program.

Resources to Guide the Peer-Training Process

Sponsors can choose to implement the peer-training process on their own, or they can obtain time-tested guidebooks which give step-by-step instructions for organizing, facilitating and evaluating peer-training groups. (The sponsor may want to pilot a group or two of learners just to get the "feel" for the peer-training process.)

Sponsors of the Free Nonprofit Micro-eMBA can obtain peer learning guidebooks. Form peer learning circles for about $20 a person. Go to Peer Learning Guidebooks and see the Program Planning Kit to design your complete peer learning program -- then call us at 763-971-8890.

Suggested Number of Meetings Per Learning Module

The program's learning modules vary in the amount of materials to review and activities to conduct (in order to build systems in the organization). Therefore, it may be prudent to use more than one meeting to address certain modules (this is in the case where the program sponsor has chosen to organize learners together in meetings, eg, in peer-training groups). Note that learners may choose to go through the program in an order other than that specified in the catalog of learning modules. That's fine. Still, certain modules may require more than one meeting of learners.

Note that the following are suggested -- ultimately, it's up to the program sponsor and learners as to how many meetings they want to have.

Learning Module

Suggested Number of
Learner Meetings (see NOTES below)

Program Orientation 1
Starting and Understanding Your Nonprofit 1 about topics for reflection/discussion
1 about activities to build systems/practices
Understanding the Role of Chief Executive 1
Developing Your Basic Management and Leadership Skills 1 about topics for reflection/discussion
1 about activities to build systems/practices
Building and Supporting Your Board 1
Developing Your Strategic Planning 1 about topics for reflection/discussion
1 about activities to build systems/practices
Designing and Marketing Your Programs 1 about topics for reflection/discussion
1 about activities to build systems/practices
Managing Your Nonprofit's Finances and Taxes 1
Developing Your Fundraising Plan 1
Supervising Your Employees and Volunteers 1 about topics for reflection/discussion
1 about activities to build systems/practices
Evaluating Your Programs and Services 1
Conducting Overall Final Fitness Test of Your Nonprofit 1


1. The above table suggests a total of 17 meetings in the program. The number of meetings in the program ultimately depends on:
a) How many modules the learner (or the program) chooses to complete
b) The amount of time between meetings. The more time between meetings, the more likely that learners could address a module in one meeting.

2. The length of time to complete the program depends on:
a) The amount of time between meetings, for example, two to four weeks.
b) How many modules that learner (or the program) chooses to complete.

Regarding Verification and Certification of Learning

Ultimately, It's Up to the Program Sponsor/Provider to Determine

It's up to the sponsoring organization to decide if the program will include certification of learning, for example, a diploma, "continuing education units" (CEU's), certificate, etc.

It's ultimately up to the local sponsoring organization to decide how any verification and certification of learning is to occur. The sponsor is in the best position to collect and evaluate the necessary information in order to verify extent of learning and ultimately reward certification.

Learners in circles might consider from among the following evaluation ideas to decide their approach to evaluating their learning in the program. NOTE: Before and after every circle meeting, learners will complete a Session Planner Form which has learners answering the questions about their learning, as well.

Objective Criteria That Could Be Considered for Evaluation of Learning

The following criteria apply to programs where learners are organized into groups, for example, in the peer-training process.



Passing Grade

Failing Grade

attendance facilitator · none or one absence · absence from two or more meetings without visible effort to make up the missed meetings
documentation of learning facilitator · fully completed · not completed
reflective document with summary of learning from the program facilitator · integration and synthesis of learning · lack of integration and synthesis of learning
portfolio (collection of written results from the program) facilitator · complete · not completed

*The evaluator may be an outside facilitator or all learners, for example.

Subjective Criteria That Could Be Considered for Evaluation of Learning



Passing Grade

Failing Grade

quality of learner's feedback in meetings group feedback in final meeting · sustained high quality and quantity of feedback
· build on own and others' strengths
· minimal feedback
quality of learner's use of their time slots in meetings group feedback in final meeting · well-prepared explanation of current goal
· helped the group to help them
· overall: took charge of their learning
· obvious lack of preparation for meetings
**The evaluator may be an outside facilitator or all learners, for example.

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