35 Years … and Still Learning Fundraising
After 35 years (so far) in fundraising, I can honestly say that I am still learning. I am not ashamed of this. In fact, I am a bit proud. You see, if I had decided I "knew everything" a decade or two ago, I would be totally ignorant today of online fundraising, text-to-give, crowdfunding and so much more. I would be the Brachiosaurus of fundraising—tall and small-brained.
The practice of fundraising is constantly changing to take advantage of new technologies, shifts in donors' preferences, lower-cost options, and so much more that affects the way we do business as fundraisers. Each time I teach a course in fundraising, I am reminded of the very thin line between what I can teach from years and years of solid experience—and what I teach based heavily on what I have read, heard and to a lesser degree, done.
In other words, if you're skimming this article and thinking, "I just don't know enough about fundraising; I hope I can find some help here," you're not alone. I do the same thing every weekday with this e-newsletter and a half-dozen others I receive. And can I let you in on a secret? I think the truly smart people are those who know they don't know everything and are constantly seeking out new knowledge.
So, my smart readers, here are some ways I keep learning fundraising. Feel free to use them, adapt them or replace them with your own thoughts. Just—don't stop learning! That's when you may as well turn your fundraising work over to someone who is hungrier to learn, regardless of whether they are 62 or 22.
Read all you can. Yes, you're reading this, so obviously you have this one figured out. But, do you really? In the old days, most of us had a folder where we inserted articles or even magazines that we wanted to read; this was faithfully taken along on business trips where we wiled away the long hours on the plane and in the hotel room catching up on the accumulation of reading we'd set aside for just this opportunity. After all, the Internet was not there to tempt us with all its time-consuming treasures. But today, there is much more about fundraising to read, online and offline. And much of it is free, so we no longer have to get our money's worth from a subscription that came out of an already-stretched budget.
Pamela Barden is an independent fundraising consultant focused on direct response. You can read more of her fundraising columns here.