The definitive guide to free resources for learning and development – part one

Limited budget for L&D? No problem! Susie Finch has pulled together a guide to free, low cost and reduced price resources for learning practitioners working in the charity sector.

Find training treasures online: If you need a fact sheet, template, or a basic training resource, the chances are that it’s available somewhere on the internet already but do thorough research and be very selective. 

Register for Clear Lessons, the Charity Learning Consortium’s free video learning library: There are a growing number of charity specific topics being covered in the Clear Lessons video learning library, as well as a brilliant new series coming soon on equity, diversity and inclusion. Great quality animated videos are also being created, and there are plans in the pipeline for creating fundraising specific content too. Charities, their staff and volunteers can all register for free. Videos are a great way to engage learners as part of a blended approach.

Create your own eLearning: It’s never been easier to create your own eLearning, which can work really effectively alongside off the peg courses and resources. 

Outsource bespoke eLearning at a realistic cost: The Charity Learning Consortium partners with Gill Chester of Little Man Project, who specialises in creating eLearning for charities at a reasonable cost. She’s flexible too, so you might be able to work together, creating what you can in house, with Little Man Project adding its expertise just where it’s needed. 

Save money with small charity discounts: No matter how small your charity, you can still access affordable eLearning via the Charity Learning Consortium, at a price that reflects the size of your organisation. For more details of the Consortium’s Small Charities Package email

Find free resources from subject matter experts: If you’re looking for specific resources, then find the experts in that field and see what they have to offer for free first. For example:

  • The Mental Health at Work website is a great place to start if you need anything related to workplace wellbeing.  Liggy Webb often gives away books for free and may offer free places and discounts to charities. There are also a range of resources on the Investors in People website. For more ideas for free resources to support workplace wellbeing and mental health, have a look at the list that I’ve previously collated on Linked in
  • For anything to do with PR and communications, check out the resources at CharityComms
  • For coaching, ask the Consortium about a special charity discount to Coaching Culture’s eLearning. Or download the Consortium’s free ebook on In-house Coaching.
  • The Directory of Social Change offers charity specific courses in topics like fundraising and governance, priced according to the size of your charity. And the NCVO’s knowledge bank, called Knowhow, is also worth searching for charity specific resources.
  • For leadership and management there’s an extensive, free management library at And check out Kaya, the humanitarian leadership academy to find a growing number of free courses. The Open University also offers free courses for charity leaders – links are below. While the CMI has a lot of ‘How tos’ on its website.
  • For project management, then have a look at Project Toolbox – a free, 15 day micro programme delivered direct to your mobile phone. 

Make the most of reputable, free courses: Just because it’s free, doesn’t mean it isn’t any good! Use the 80/20 rule – does it give you 80% of what you need? Or are there ways to enhance free courses with some bespoke content that you create yourself?

  • The Open University’s OpenLearn offers more than 1,000 free courses and is definitely worth exploring. Topics are very broad but include a national learning hub for volunteers or people working with volunteers, as well as courses specifically for leaders and managers working in the charity sector.  
  • FutureLearn is another good place to look for free courses. The CIPD currently offers two on this platform: HR Fundamentals and People Management Skills. Both have a five star rating. 
  • Other platforms like ALISON and coursera cover a very broad range of topics but amongst them you’ll find courses in desktop IT skills and health and safety.

Ask for help from trainers: Charity Days has a database of experienced trainers all willing to offer their services for free – they just ask for reasonable expenses to be covered. Using Charity Days could make cost prohibitive training a real possibility.

Register for Learning at Work Week: Every May Learning at Work Week is a focus for L&D in the workplace. Plan ahead and organise a campaign to offer free learning to all your charity staff and volunteers. The week usually dovetails with Mental Health Awareness Week, so it’s a good time to focus on wellbeing. Have a look at my list of curated free resources on wellbeing on LinkedIn.

Think differently about conferences: Exhibitions attached to big (usually expensive) conferences such as Learning Technologies, World of Learning and the Festival of Work all have a vast range of free seminars and provide a great opportunity to network with other L&D practitioners. This year, many events are virtual and either free or reduced cost, so make the most of them while you can. There are also an increasing number of low cost initiatives happening in L&D, for example, L&D Connect has previously run an unconference for £50. 

Susie Finch is a freelance writer and editor specialising in learning and development. The former editor of TrainingZone, she has worked with the Charity Learning Consortium for more than 10 years. 

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