The Importance of Professional Development in Fundraising

After attending the Association of Donor Relations Professionals New York City Regional Workshop last Friday, I am feeling a bit refreshed and full of new ideas to try in the next year.  It’s one of my favorite times of the year, as the conference season is getting under way.  I say it all the time and will say it again — fundraisers need professional development opportunities (and many other things) to stay sane and effective.

There are many reasons that professional development is critical for fundraisers, but here are my top three reasons:

  1. Time to recharge — We all can benefit from some time away from the office, which allows us to see the bigger picture and return to our work refocused.
  2. Source of new ideas and inspiration — Conferences and workshops are always full of the latest and greatest ideas and strategies.  As Lynne Wester reminded us at the ADRP Regional Workshop, we can all learn from each other and borrow ideas  that will help our fundraising efforts.
  3. Expand your network — Being able to pick up the phone or send a quick e-mail to a few fellow fundraisers with a question or issue is absolutely priceless.  Professional development events are the best place to make these connections and you should capitalize upon these opportunities to meet and get to know your colleagues.

What professional development events and associations have been useful in your fundraising career?  What events will you be attending this year?

For your information, I’ll be attending AFP’s International Conference in Vancouver next month (which I’ll be writing more about very soon), the New York Philanthropic Planning Symposium in May and Fundraising Day in New York this June.  I look forward to sharing some of the lessons I glean from these upcoming events with you.

7 Ways to Learn About Fundraising

After Rory Green asked me on Twitter yesterday about the best ways to learn about fundraising, way too many ideas came to mind that I could not get them all out of my head and into 140-character sections to answer her question.  In an effort to make it easy for you, dear readers, I have compiled a list of the top seven ways to deepen your fundraising knowledge:

1.  Do the work: If you are currently working in non-profit fundraising, the best way to deepen your knowledge is to take on stretch assignments.  Not only will you demonstrate your value to your boss and co-workers, but you will also have something substantial to add to your resumé.

2.  Engage with mentors: An easy way to build up your knowledge of fundraising is to identify and engage with a few seasoned fundraisers as mentors; these professionals will be able to help you develop professionally, serve as a sounding board for ideas you may have and generally help guide you through this work.

3.  Join a professional association/networking group: Whether it’s the Association of Fundraising Professionals, the Association of Donor Relations Professionals, the Partnership for Philanthropic Planning, or a Meetup group, you should take full advantage of opportunities to engage with fellow fundraisers.  You never know what you may learn and who you could meet.

4.  Volunteer: Some say that the best training is through trial by fire.  If you volunteer with a group that you are already involved in to help out in fundraising, you could end up learning about more grassroots fundraising, how to craft sponsorship proposals for the business leaders in your community or anything else on the fundraising spectrum.

5.  Read industry publications: As you build a career in fundraising, it is absolutely imperative that you stay up on the current trends and happenings in the field.  A great way to do this is to subscribe to and regularly read at least one of these publications: The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Fundraising Success Magazine, Advancing Philanthropy (a subscription to which you get as a member of AFP), Planned Giving Today, and The Non Profit Times.

6.  Attend workshops & seminars or enroll in formal certificate/degree programs: A few times a year (time and registration costs permitting), you should be sure to attend a workshop or seminar related to your area of fundraising; these are usually a good combination of professional development and networking.  If you are in the Greater New York area, my two favorites are the New York Philanthropic Planning Symposium and Fund Raising Day in New York, sponsored by the local PPP and AFP chapters respectively.  If you live near one of the regional offices of The Foundation Center, they consistently offer interesting sessions on diverse topics in fundraising and philanthropy.  To take this a few steps further, you could also consider a graduate degree or certificate program in fundraising, philanthropy and/or non-profit management (in a later post I will share why I pursued a graduate degree and how it led me to my career in fundraising).

7.  Engage on social media: To take your learning to the next level, you should be actively participating in the conversations occurring on Twitter and the multitude of blogs and websites focused on fundraising (like this one!).  I am continually surprised and impressed by all of the people that I have been able to engage with and learn from through these media.

I hope that you find these strategies useful and that you will put them to use in your career.

Does this list reflect your experience?  Did I leave anything off my list?

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