Refresh Your Learning in 2013!
It is easy for us to develop a rut in many areas of our life, including learning.
As you take time to reflect during this holiday season, it is a perfect time to create or update your plan for self-improvement next year. Opportunities for professional development are expanding exponentially online and in person.
I’ll never forget the bold challenge my visionary friend Bernard Ross, director of The Management Centre, made at an Association of Fundraising Professionals International Conference years ago. He asked why we chose to attend the same conference year after year. He challenged us to look for a new venue — to go out and find new information — to avoid stagnation.
His advice resonated then, and it resonates now.
The reality is that so many conferences have the same base of speakers and core topics each year. Too often the presenters are overwhelmingly consultants. Uncover a new opportunity to expand your professional horizons.
- If you attend conferences in a niche field, such as CASE, NAYDO, PPP, NCDC, DMANF, AHP (our profession loves anachronisms) … take a year off! Experience another conference or alternative education path. Conversing with familiar faces is helpful, but professional growth often requires challenging yourself. Be on the lookout for bold new conferences, like the inaugural FundRaising Success Engage conference May 9 (keep eye out for more details).
- Online opportunities are growing fast, from for-credit college curriculum to podcasts, articles and more. Great subscription content services are available. For example, we are involved with 501c3u.com.
- Consider enrolling in an undergraduate or graduate program specific to the nonprofit arena. These programs have grown dramatically over the last decade. Or consider a business or communications degree program.
- If you are seriously interested in learning about technology and social media, consider programs at the college level that are training the pros being recruited by major public relations, advertising and marketing firms (or hire a student as an employee or intern and let him or her train you).
- Embrace the many opportunities to read, from classics in the field to new books to professional journals to publications such as Fast Company. The Internet makes so much information available that you can drown reading online content and trying to keep up with social media each day. Establish your own professional reading plan.
- Be strategic. Identify the skills that are most beneficial to your current job and what skills you need to achieve your long-term career goals. Find the right educational opportunity to meet these needs.
The older we get, the easier it is to fall into ruts. Learning is no different. Too often we avoid new experiences and people who may challenge us. Challenge yourself today — why not try something new?
Be sure to keep your knowledge fresh. By attending different conferences and developing new skills, you will gain an energized perspective. It is invigorating for you, and beneficial for your career and your organization.
Looking for Jeff? You'll find him either on the lake, laughing with good friends, or helping nonprofits develop to their full potential.
Jeff believes that successful fundraising is built on a bedrock of relevant, consistent messaging; sound practices; the nurturing of relationships; and impeccable stewardship. And that organizations that adhere to those standards serve as beacons to others that aspire to them. The Bedrocks & Beacons blog will provide strategic information to help nonprofits be both.
Jeff has more than 25 years of nonprofit leadership experience and is a member of the NonProfit PRO Editorial Advisory Board.