Piloting a Cost-Effective Future: How Young Life Scales Learning Initiatives With a New Seat-Based Pricing Model From Open LMS

With nearly 6,000 employees in more than 100 countries, non-profit organization Young Life is a youth ministry outreach program that fosters the faith and wellbeing of kids and young adults around the world. The organization works with thousands of additional volunteers who dedicate their time to providing young people in their communities with a safe space where they are known and loved.

Young Life’s volunteers and employees must deliver consistent messaging to the youth in their communities to maintain the integrity of the program. Employees and volunteers are trained to better understand the organization’s mission and values, as well as how to meaningfully and appropriately interact with youth populations. The organization also teaches its workforce how to meet compliance regulations, maintain safe environments, and adhere to the nonprofit’s operating standards.

How Regular Influxes of New But Short-Term Learners Posed New Challenges

In 2023, Young Life needed to find a suitable solution for replacing its outdated onboarding and compliance platform. Introductory staff and volunteer agreements, as well as preliminary compliance training, were happening in a custom application, but that application was being phased out. Young Life felt that its learning management system (LMS) was the right replacement solution for training its staff and volunteers, but this would require significant scaling of its Open LMS solution.

However, the majority of these users would only use the LMS for a few days while completing the agreements and preliminary compliance training activities needed to start their volunteer assignments. Carrying the cost for additional short-term users posed a funding challenge for Young Life because the rising volunteer numbers didn’t equate to an increase in operational funds. Young Life would need to stretch its existing operational budget to accommodate training the increasing volume of volunteers.

Young Life’s situation suggested the need for a more flexible pricing model especially as some users would only require the platform for a few days. “We needed a subscription model that addressed our year-round user population, which hovers between 1,250 and 1,750 people each month,” said Matt Wolford, Learning Technology Architect at Young Life. “But we also needed to account for our volunteer population. We needed a pricing model that accounted for short-term users as well.”

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Working With Open LMS for a Mutually Beneficial Partnership

Young Life shared its concerns about scaling and affordability with Open LMS, and the teams agreed that the annual subscription model was no longer Young Life’s best option. Open LMS proposed that Young Life could move to a new pricing model that was still under development. Under this new model, Open LMS would count and report LMS users every month, and Young Life would only pay for learners when they were using the platform.

Monthly seat-based pricing would be much more cost-effective than the traditional annual subscription model, which was crucial for the non-profit organization. Meanwhile, Open LMS stood to benefit as its upcoming model needed some adjustments before a wider rollout. Young Life agreed to be a beta tester for seat-based pricing and participate in a series of monthly meetings to help Open LMS enhance the model before it was made more widely available.

How Young Life Benefits Beyond Accessible LMS Pricing

In January 2024, Open LMS and Young Life began having monthly meetings to assess the seat-based approach. The two organizations will continue to work together to improve the model and determine the real costs of seat-based pricing. Young Life gives Open LMS feedback on reporting and other software features. Open LMS uses that feedback to ensure it has the infrastructure to successfully manage sharp influxes in LMS users during peak training periods. The collaborative sessions between Young Life and Open LMS will continue throughout 2024 as the two organizations refine the pricing model.

Beta testing the new pricing model has sparked further internal conversations at Young Life about the nonprofit’s learning strategies. “This particular model forced us to think about our operational rhythms, our business processes, and how to be more strategic,” said Wolford. “We want to make sure we’re ready for our user population to jump from 2,000 users a month to 20,000 the following month. We’ve had to more thoroughly discuss our deployment and rollout strategy. We’ve had to tighten some things up as we go, but that's part of this pilot year. We’re learning those things and making adjustments.”

This unique partnership has also given Young Life the chance to help shape LMS pricing and make digital learning platforms more accessible for other organizations. “It’s a new trail that we’re blazing,” said Wolford. “Open LMS has been very flexible and understanding, and our account managers have shown a desire to work with us to make sure we have what we need. They don’t push us beyond our organization’s capabilities. Open LMS has been a good partner in all of this, rather than just a vendor that’s all about the bottom line.”

Young Life expects to officially launch its LMS with live users under the seat-based pricing model by early autumn 2024.

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