Continuing Education for Fundraising Rockstars
I’m writing this article earlier in the week than usual because I am heading out of town for a few days. No, it’s not vacation—it’s continuing education.
Like you, I don’t have time to attend training. I don’t have money to waste on training that doesn’t teach me anything new. And yes, I admit my main incentive for signing up for this training was the tri-annual renewal of my CFRE credentials.
But when I push all my excuses aside, I can’t deny the reality: Continuing education can make me a better fundraiser and increase my value to those I consult with, teach and mentor. But, like anything else, how much I get out of it depends in great part on me and my attitude.
This isn’t another article reminding you that you will get more out of training if you get a good night’s sleep and eat breakfast, or even about the importance of putting your smartphone away so you can concentrate on learning. Rather, let’s tackle the toughest thing about continuing education: getting it approved. (Even if you are self-employed like me, you have to convince yourself it’s worthwhile, and sometimes I make the most frugal boss I’ve ever had look like a spendthrift.)
Choose carefully. The closest training to your office or the least-expensive option may not be the best. (I consider free webinars an exception to this since you can always bail out quickly if you find they are not meeting your expectations and needs.) Few of us can go to every one, or even more than one or two training events during the year, so making sure the one we choose is the best for our needs is essential. A few things to consider when weighing your options include:
- How much of the conference is training sessions vs. networking, roaming the exhibit hall or cocktail parties? I have nothing against any of those activities, but making a case for continuing education is easier when there is real education being served up.
- What do past attendees say about the conference? Most options include endorsements in their marketing material, but we all know those are carefully chosen because they are the best. Do you know someone who attended that you can talk to? Getting a “real” review of the training can help you manage expectations.
- Who is sponsoring the event? Some events are little more than glorified sales platforms. That’s fine, as long as you know it upfront; this doesn’t mean you won’t learn anything. Just be aware so you aren’t disappointed.
Identify what you expect to learn at the training. When making a case for continuing education, show what you anticipate bringing back to the job. If this list is pretty flimsy, that can make the go/no go decision a lot easier. But if you have robust expectations based on what’s being offered at the event, you can better show the value of attending. Also, when you are attending, you will have “marching orders” in terms of what you expect to learn so you can focus your time on those workshops and sessions that will advance your agenda.