Fundraising professional development: a must for everyone

Fundraising today is about more than being fearless in asking for money. Yes, you need relationships, creativity, and intuition.  But today you need even more.

Part of fundraising today is the added levels of:

  • sophistication and professionalism
  • data management and segmentation
  • marketing and advertising
  • donor research and wealth screenings
  • market research (including a feasibility study)
  • strategic planning
  • business modeling
  • working from a fundraising plan
  • social media
  • projecting giving trends

These – along with your people and their skills – are your capacity and infrastructure. They are also your assets, strengths, and your future.

If reading the above leaves you feeling overwhelmed or intimidated, take a deep breath. You don’t need to know everything and do everything to be successful. What you need is exposure to trends, emerging technology, and best practices so that you can make decisions and take actions that are appropriate for your organization.

We believe that all people associated with nonprofits and fundraising should invest time in professional development to learn more about best practices, trends, and the diversity and sophistication of today’s donors.

We encourage nonprofits to make fundraising-related professional development part of their operation. Investing time and money in people at all levels of your organization can help your nonprofit stay current, increase its impact, and sustain the edge needed to be successful. Training is more accessible than ever before. Consider webinars, conferences, workshops, coaching, newsletters, blogs, use of consultants, internships (and externships), participation in professional associations, and good old fashioned books. These are all ways to increase individual knowledge and collective ability.

The traditional model of sending people to a conference can be expensive. But today everyone can gather around a screen to watch a webinar and discuss. We say “everyone” because we know there are very few organizations who can depend solely on development staff and board members to secure the funding and resources they need. There are others within your organization who can play a role if you welcome their involvement.

For staff and board members who do have the opportunity to participate in professional development, we recommend a program of shared learning. Here’s what we mean: after attending a workshop or conference, the participant should come back and share what they have learned with the rest of the organization. Time should be scheduled for a group “debrief” from the person who attended the training. The person who attended the training should prepare five to ten minutes of remarks and share any printed or online materials that were distributed. A debrief can be focused on the following:

  • three key points of the training
  • one or two things we can do differently
  • how our nonprofit can benefit from the information shared at the training
  • be sure to include a Q&A session for full participation

Invest in continuous learning – your organization and the people you serve and advocate for are worth it.

Don’t forget:

Copyright 2019 – Mel and Pearl Shaw

Saad&Shaw are co-sponsors of the Ocean City Jazz Festival July 4th through 7th in North Top Sail, NC. Join us there. Learn more at

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