35 Years … and Still Learning Fundraising
Invest in formal education. This isn't for everyone, I know, but if you can still think about school without breaking out in a cold sweat, you may be a good candidate for one of the many formal educational programs in fundraising that have sprung up in the last two decades. These range from what I consider the granddaddy of them all, Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, to courses at a community college or university extension program. These are often online; for example, I teach for the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) Extension in its fundraising certification program. Right now, I am teaching a class on campus, but in the summer, I'll be teaching the same course online. The hardest part now is not finding a program, but finding the one that will give you the most value based on what you want to get from it.
Obviously, time and money are the main barriers to getting formal or informal education in fundraising, and completing a program or reading everything imaginable is not a guarantee that you will be a better fundraiser. So this old dog offers all these suggestions with a caveat: If you truly want to learn to be the best possible fundraiser, just do it. Don't say no to opportunities to work on something outside your expertise; say, "Sure, I'll do it!" and then work like crazy to learn (from articles and reports you've saved and from acquaintances with that particular expertise).
Just don't stop learning. You'll be a better fundraiser, but you'll also have more fun as a fundraiser when you are trying new things, having success in an area that you've never tried before, and having other fundraisers call or email you when they are looking to learn from the expert you have become.
Pamela consults with nonprofits, helping them develop their fundraising strategy and writing copy to achieve their goals. Additionally, she teaches fundraising at two universities, hoping to inspire the next generation of fundraisers to be passionate about the profession. Previously, Pamela led the fundraising programs for nonprofit organizations. Pamela is a member of the Advisory Panel for Rogare, the fundraising think tank at Plymouth University’s Hartsook Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy, a CFRE, a graduate of Wheaton College (IL) and Dominican University, and holds a Doctorate in Business Administration from California Southern University. Contact Pamela at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @pjbarden.