The Importance of Debate for the Development Professional
For thousands of us in the nonprofit profession, a goal of self-improvement is a must. The complex nature of the profession implores the need for constant examination and re-examination of one’s skills and abilities. There is a foundation for which that everyone must have if they are to succeed in this profession. You must realize the need for effective communication, which means talent in reading, writing and speaking. It is important to also realize you work and interact with complex human beings.
If you seek time, talent and treasure, one must understand the need to build and maintain complex relationships. You must also have the ability to communicate proactively and reactively—realizing the key to interaction is through discourse with those you are trying to engage in your organization.
In personal preparation for my career, it never occurred to me to join a debate club or practice debate with others. To be completely prepared to interact with prospects and donors having the elements from the debate experience would have been invaluable. The reflection on the importance of debate was obtained by watching a movie, “The Great Debaters.”
“The Value of Debate: Adapted from the Report of the Philodemic Debate Society, Georgetown University, 1998” notes that debate teaches critical thinking, clear expression, research skills, organization and arrangement, oral communication skills, practice, explanation power, selling power, listening and note taking skills, ethics of advocacy, increasing student knowledge, enhancing the classroom experience, and leadership.
The process of debating allows one to engage in role playing and two-way communications. It encourages discussion and frank feedback, teaches practitioners to think quickly on their feet with confidence, allows you to speak to a room of one or to a room of several thousand and provides a unique challenge that expands perspectives.
The Qatar Foundation says the benefits of debating are derived from decades of academic research on the subject. Debate provides experiences that are conducive to life-changing, cognitive and presentational skills. Through debate, presenters acquire unique educational benefits as they learn and polish skills far beyond what can be learned in any other setting.
In general, the benefits of debate include:
- Gaining broad, multi-faceted knowledge cutting across several disciplines
- Increasing learners’ confidence, poise and self-esteem
- Providing an engaging, active learner-centered activity
- Improving rigorous higher order and critical thinking skills
- Enhancing the ability to structure and organize thoughts
- Enhancing learners’ analytical, research and note-taking skills
- Improving learners’ ability to form balanced, informed arguments and to use reasoning and evidence
- Developing effective speech composition and delivery
- Encouraging teamwork
According to The Guardian, the art of debate involves mastering skills of obvious intrinsic value: the confidence to speak in public and make sense, the construction of a logical argument, the ability to read an audience reaction and willingness to hear other objections and arguments and respond to them. The process of debate allows you to question your own opinions. The process also forces you to at least respect the other side of an argument and it makes you think before you speak.
According to Study International News, 12 ways debating will help you are:
- Be a better critical thinker
- Articulate your thoughts
- Education is key
- Think on our feet
- Conflict resolution
- Show some empathy
- Keep your emotions in check
- Construct meaning out of complex situations
- Presentation skills
- Confidence boost
- Be more socially conscious
- An expanded worldview
Now, think about your daily job in the nonprofit world. I do not know about you, but elements of my job include having to make presentations to a variety of educated groups and individuals; making solicitations to wealthy, demanding and very intelligent people; creating a case for support that resonates with others; developing priorities that stimulate and cry out for emotional stories; providing answers to objections; leading integrated teams; establishing new programs; launching deep dive research on a variety of subject matter and data driven entities; plus developing a structure with a sound game plan in a dynamic world. These lists of activities are like elements needed for success in the concept of debate.
I am convinced my career preparation would have been more complete with the portfolio of debate in my career history. Unfortunately, that idea did not occur to me. I thought of the need for writing, speaking, etc., as specific entities, but not in an integrated fashion, that being in a debate setting could create.
We all need tools in our toolbox that will prepare us for success. Continue to think about ways for self-improvement. I constantly seek to improve my skills and abilities. I strongly encourage you to do the same. Keep your tool box updated and comprehensive. If you can take advantage of utilizing the activity of debate in some form, do it. This important concept will help mold you in positive ways you never thought possible that will enhance your probability of success as a nonprofit executive.
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, educator and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 10 years and has had the CFRE designation for the last 26 years. He has also been a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals for over 35 years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also done post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division plus Adjunct Professor for Olivet Nazarene University. Contact Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-224-1029.