No Image Available

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1705321608055-0’); });

How not to train: The Third Sector


With experience of the Third Sector from both sides of the fence, Nicki Davey shares her experiences and gives her top tips for those looking to break into this market.

In response to recent discussions about supplying training to the Third Sector (i.e. charities and not-for-profit organisations such as housing associations, social enterprises and community interest companies), here are some observations based on my own experience as a training provider and my previous experience as head of learning and development for a large national charity.

What not to do:

Don't try to supply to Third Sector organisations if you...
Don't have any knowledge of the organisation and its needs:
As a training purchaser I encountered many providers who made no effort to find out about us. One training company offered us training designed primarily for the construction industry (we were a housing association – we didn't build houses, we provided support and accommodation to vulnerable people). Why try to sell to us without making any effort to find out about what we did, how we worked and what we needed?
Don't offer value for money:
"There is a culture of sharing and co-operation in the Third Sector. Providers need to understand this and be prepared to work in a similar way."
I once interviewed a training company whose charges were twice those of the other providers I was considering for the same project. When asked about value for money, they gave me a list of corporate giants they had worked for. They were unable to demonstrate how they would deliver twice as much value for twice the cost but thought I would be impressed by their client list.
Don't share the organisation's values and culture:
We once booked a trainer to run a course on motivation. Despite being an experienced trainer, he made derogatory comments about tramps. This is unacceptable in any environment, but given that we provided support to homeless people, he certainly should have known better.
Aren't willing to work collaboratively:
When I was seeking a provider to work with my team and I to design and deliver a highly bespoke management training programme, all the providers I met said they would work collaboratively with us. However only one was actually prepared to work jointly with us including incorporating our materials into their training, and allowing us to deliver materials they had designed.

What is important to the Third Sector?

Apologies for generalising – I know these also apply to many private sector companies:

Culture and values
There is a culture of sharing and co-operation in the Third Sector. Organisations work in partnership to achieve their aims, secure better value for money, share experiences, ideas and expertise, and combine resources. Providers need to understand this and be prepared to work in a similar way.
Budgets and value for money – outcomes

Budgets in the sector are tight and will worsen as public spending cuts impact on those charities funded by public bodies via grants or contracts to deliver services. They will have to do more for less, and find even better value for money than before. Training needs will be much more specific and measuring training outcomes will be increasingly important.

"Third Sector training is more likely to be on securing funding, developing stakeholder relationships, and empowering service users/clients than on profits, competition and sales."

Additionally, organisations are becoming more creative in delivering learning, as partnerships, shared resources and co-operative or mutually beneficial arrangements become more commonplace. Providers will need to offer competitive rates and offer added value.

Training needs and priorities

Training needs and priorities can be very different in the Third Sector. They have training needs which are specific to the sector (such as working with different client groups, fundraising, governance etc). Training is more likely to be on securing funding, developing stakeholder relationships, and empowering service users/clients than on profits, competition and sales. The different cultures can also necessitate different approaches to the same training topic: I recently met two different organisations to discuss people management training. The first, a private company, wanted managers to be more person-centred, supportive and developmental in their approach. The second, a charity, needed their highly supportive, empathetic managers to be much firmer when dealing with performance issues.

Tips for accessing the Third Sector

These are important whatever sector you work with, but are perhaps more important in the Third Sector.

Understand and support the organisation's values, aims and culture:

Don't try to sell a product. Find out about them, develop a relationship, understand what they do and how they do it, and consider whether their values and mission are aligned with your own before establishing whether you are able to help them.

Add value

Provide extra free services such as sourcing venues, introducing them to similar organisations with shared training needs so they can purchase your services jointly, offer reduced charity rates and other ways to save (such as printing their own handouts).

Work in partnership

Work with organisations to help them access funding for training. We recently helped three charities to submit applications to the Health, Work and Wellbeing Fund for stress management and wellbeing programmes. We gave our time and expertise for free, the organisations all secured grants, and we are now delivering the programmes.

Forums and groups

Find out about the many forums and events for third sector organisations. Offer to run free workshops, or have a stand at conferences.

"Budgets in the sector are tight and will worsen. They will have to do more for less, and find even better value for money than before."

Use the opportunity not to sell, but to get a better understanding of their challenges, priorities, aims and values. If people connect with you and like your approach, they'll come back to you when they need to.

Tenders and quotes

Be prepared to tender for large contracts and learn how to do this properly if you are new to it. Tendering is time-consuming but is particularly worth it if you already have a positive relationship with the organisation concerned.

Register with Charity Days

Charity Days is a group of trainers who offer their services free (expenses are covered) to charities. This is not a route to paid work. Trainers offer their services for altruistic reasons, not as a marketing tool, but if you want to develop a better understanding of the Third Sector, it's a great way to do so, and you'll be doing something worthwhile to support the charity too.

Nicki Davey is director of Saltbox Training and Events which providing training, team-building events, staff conferences and wellbeing services based on the principle that we all perform best when our mind is free, our body relaxed, and our creative potential unlocked.

No Image Available

Get the latest from TrainingZone.

Elevate your L&D expertise by subscribing to TrainingZone’s newsletter! Get curated insights, premium reports, and event updates from industry leaders.


Thank you!