Learning and Growing as a Fundraiser


Handout from the 1994 NSFRE International Fundraising Conference.

One of the frequent recommendations I make to nonprofit organizations is to start investing in the ongoing training and mentoring of their fundraising staff. I’m amazed at how few fundraisers, especially here in the middle of the country, get the support to attend conferences, take classes, network with other fundraisers, join AFP or even subscribe to the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Of course the number one reason these things don’t happen is the cost. Sure, going to the International AFP Conference can cost nearly $2,000 when you figure in transportation, lodging, and food. But it’s more than worth it at least a couple of times in your career. I first went to what was then the NSFRE International Fundraising Conference in Boston in 1994. I had a spectacular time, met a lot of great people, and still review the session handouts I collected. The photo above is one of my favorites. If you ever get the chance, ask me about it sometime.

Personally, I don’t attend an AFP Chapter meeting anymore. I’m a member of the Topeka Chapter, but it’s just too far away to attend regularly. If there’s one close to you, that’s another resource for learning and networking opportunities.

Another strategy I suggest is to support your fundraising staff to find mentors in the field. It’s an often overlooked strategy for gaining knowledge and perspective, but if you find the right person, can be an incredible boost to morale and production. I don’t think you have to look far. There are probably fundraisers at your local College or University that would be happy to meet once in awhile.

Finally, you could invite a faculty member from The Fund Raising School at Indiana University (or other training program) to come to your community for a two or three day workshop. I did this last year and invited a dozen or community leaders and executive directors to attend. While the organization that sponsored the event covered the costs, you could ask everyone to pitch in thus making it a great value. It sure beat the airfare and hotel costs of traveling to Indianapolis for a class.

Whatever you do, find the time and commit the money to give yourself (or your fundraising staff) the training and mentoring they need to grow and learn. Do you do that already? What’s your plan for professional development?