How Investing In Ongoing Nonprofit Professional Development Keeps Fundraisers On The Ball And Ahead Of The Game

Margaret Battistelli GardnerNovember 29, 2021

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What do these scenarios have in common?  

  • An organization in London raised five times its original fundraising goal on a particular project.
  • A fundraising professional from Texas crafted a monthly giving program from scratch.
  • A Nepalese fundraiser started the very first conference for fundraisers in his country.

Each of those scenarios provides an example of the power of investing in ongoing professional development for fundraisers and what can happen when education inspires people to step out of their comfort zones.

One study, “Major Gift Fundraising: Unlocking the Potential for Your Nonprofit*,” presented in a session by Capital Campaign Toolkit’s Amy Eisenstein and the Institute for Sustainable Philanthropy’s Adrian Sargeant at an Association of Fundraising Professionals conference, found that many nonprofits fail at investing in ongoing professional development for their staff because they’re afraid that the money will be wasted when/if employees leave the organization.

However, as you saw in the examples above, that thinking is simply wrongheaded. 

Here’s why you should invest in ongoing professional development

Let’s dive a little deeper and look at the examples above to show exactly how valuable this strategy is.

A nonprofit raises more than five times its original goal. 

British children’s rights nonprofit AfriKids sent two of its staff members to a recent International Fundraising Congress in the Netherlands. When it was over, they used their newfound knowledge about proper donor stewardship in a campaign that raised  more than five times its original fundraising goal.

The result of their fresh approach to donor communications was a campaign that raised about $735,000—about $682,000 of which was matched by the government for a total of about $1.4 million—which was five times what the organization had set out to raise.

The money went to improving education for children across Northern Ghana through teacher training and increasing awareness among citizens of the importance of education. As a result of the campaign’s success, 18,000 children and 350 teachers reaped the benefits.

A fundraiser starts a monthly giving program from scratch.

Mercedes Brown, the manager of individual giving at Dallas Theater Center in Texas, was anxious to start a recurring gift program at the organization. What she learned in a CharityHowTo webinar was the key to getting the monthly giving program started; it also gave her the knowledge and strategies to get buy-in for the program from the higher-ups who had to approve it.

“I wanted to do recurring monthly giving at my organization, and I wasn’t sure how to start,” she said. “This webinar was super helpful, and the presenter gave good tips to persuade the board and our finance department why it would be beneficial going forward.

“I made sure to screenshot all the statistical numbers and all her resources and references so I could then research even more so I could say, ‘“Look, this is proof that we should be doing this,” Brown said.

A nonprofit professional’s idea impacts fundraisers on a nationwide level.  

Nepalese fundraiser Rewati Dhakal received a scholarship to the International Fundraising Congress in Amsterdam. As a scholarship recipient, he was required to share what he learned with other organizations in his community.

But Dhakal went above and beyond: He used his newfound knowledge and his scholarship promise to start Nepal’s first-ever fundraising conference. 

In all, he welcomed more than 100 fundraisers to the conference. This was the first time that many of them got to be in the company of other changemakers dedicated to making the world a better place. They found fellowship, conversation, commiseration, and opportunities to learn from one another and from the expert speakers.

“Before this, there were no motivations for fundraisers in Nepal,” Dhakal explains. “It was not even recognized as a career.”

Dhakal’s efforts helped grow fundraising in Nepal into a sustainable system and boost the culture of giving not only for individual fundraisers and for individual organizations, but also for the country as well.

“I want to empower the younger generations of fundraisers to support more

impactful and ethical fundraising,” Dhakal said.

Step up or risk falling back. 

Jill Murphy, membership and post operations senior manager at the Society of American Military Engineers, says it’s important that fundraisers and nonprofit marketers step up or risk falling back

“I constantly do professional development programs. This summer I earned a digital marketing certificate. It was a 10-week course and I learned a ton,” said Murphy, who was senior manager of member services for the DMA Nonprofit Federation. 

She’s organized hundreds of professional development events both online and in person for thousands of attendees representing all areas of fundraising, nonprofit marketing, and leadership.

“If you’re not keeping up with what’s going on in marketing, then you’re going to be left behind with how quickly new technologies change the way we market as nonprofits,” Murphy said.

Learning never ends—or at least it shouldn’t. Nonprofit professional development should be ongoing, which means you’ll need to invest the resources that support it.

Investing in ongoing professional education for fundraisers and nonprofit leadership can keep you on top of your game by helping you to:

  • Stay abreast of the latest trends in technology.
  • Get a better understanding of what makes donors tick—and give.
  • Avoid the burnout that derails so many in the nonprofit sector.
  • Stay ahead of the competition.
  • Keep your board active and engaged.
  • Manage volunteers more effectively.
  • Deepen your understanding of financial issues.
  • Increase your versatility and ability to advise or step in where needed.
  • Stay connected to and learn from colleagues in the sector.

 Things change rapidly in fundraising, and it’s really important for nonprofit leaders to stay on top of trends and strategies, as well as technology advancements, so that they’re doing everything they possibly can to create positive experiences for donors and other supporters,” said Jeff Jowdy, president of Lighthouse Counsel, a Nashville-based fundraising consultancy. “An organization that refuses to grow and adapt won’t stay healthy for long.

 Donors have so very many options when it comes to which organizations to support that, unless you’re a truly niche organization with a truly unique mission that makes you the only game in town, donors can usually find a number of organizations that support the causes that are near and dear to them,” he said. “Staying on top of their game, staying current is one way for a nonprofit professional to help his or her organization stand out when it comes to engagement and communicating their message.”

 Socrates wasn’t talking about nonprofit professional development when he wrote, “Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.” But he could have been. That’s because it’s of the utmost importance that fundraisers and nonprofit leaders never stop learning.

Look into CharityHowTo, a unique continuing education resource.

CharityHowTo is a trusted resource that provides both instantly-actionable advice and strategies for long-term success for nonprofit leaders and fundraisers from organizations of all sizes, budgets, and missions. 

We produce both free and premium live and on-demand webinars that give our nonprofit community hundreds of opportunities each month to learn from the best-of-the-best nonprofit experts from around the world. They provide relevant, tactical advice around 29 of the most pressing nonprofit topics and show how you can turn those learnings into real results. 

Consider investing in a CharityHowTo membership as part of your goal to support ongoing professional development. For more information, visit charityhowto.com.

 *Note: This project was partially sponsored by Bloomerang.

Schedule a live demo with our team, and we’ll show you how easy it is to create and automate reports, utilize online and offline fundraising tools, quickly integrate and access all your data, and ultimately create more time to engage your donors.

Filed Under:   Fundraising