Learning the Value of Continuing Education for Nonprofit Professionals
In my career, I worked for five colleges and universities. In my first stint at a college, I was a graduate assistant seeking a master’s degree. I loved working with professors in an academic environment. I love research, and the university had wonderful libraries. As the only graduate assistant in the college of business, I was responsible for working with a committee. The function of this committee was to evaluate student academic profiles to determine how many hours they would need to graduate once accepted into the college.
This experience made me quickly realize that college degrees are important and yet, could be outdated over time. The process of education and the speed of knowledge advancement is amazing. Buckminster Fuller’s research on the knowledge doubling curve revealed that human knowledge doubled every century until around 1900. Current numbers show that average human knowledge is now doubling about every 13 months. This fact alone points out the constant need for up-to-date continuing education.
What Is Continuing Education?
According to Lifehack, continuing education is an all-encompassing term that describes a variety of formal and informal learning activities and methods. Continuing education ranges from getting the requirements to take the next step in your professional life, to learning and pursuing research based on your interests.
At nonprofits and for-profits, continuing education is a tool to help professionals expand new solutions to old problems. The Third Sector Company provides numerous articles about nonprofit leadership development. It is believed that nonprofit executives must have strong leadership skills to achieve their goals. Key skills and management techniques are needed for nonprofit leaders.
This requires up-to-date education in the areas of volunteerism, leading for impact and building financial capital through fundraising advocacy. Everyone working in the nonprofit sector can benefit from continuing education. Every nonprofit needs to create a culture of learning within their organization. Nonprofit leadership training is a continual process over time involving executives, staff, board members and key stakeholders.
Examples of pursuing continuing education consists of live webinars, on demand webinars, in-house training and bookstore products, based upon continuing education companies such as Lorman Education Services. Examples of nonprofit courses offered by educational companies include the topics of capital campaigns, major gifts, legal issues, finance and budgeting, working with volunteers, human resource practices, accounting guidelines, management, and leadership for professionals. If you can establish a topic there is some type of continuing educational component to meet your needs.
If you have the time and resources to attend nonprofit conferences, these events are a great way to learn, meet peers and quickly receive the latest education on a topic of interest to you. In addition, many nonprofit professionals seek continuing education credits for some type of certification, such as a CFRE designation. No matter your role in a nonprofit organization, Classy suggests attending at least one of the following annual conferences when offered:
- The 2020 Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum Conference
- 2020 Nonprofit Technology Conference
- International AFP Fundraising Conference
- The Nonprofit Innovation & Optimization Summit
- Association of Financial Professionals Conference
- Nonprofit Storytelling Conference
- Dreamforce Conference
Donorbox suggests other nonprofit conferences to attend for continuing education knowledge each year when offered:
- AFP Icon
- ANA DC Nonprofit Conference
- Cause Camp
- Western Canada Fundraising Conference
- CEE Fundraising Conference
- Fundraising Convention (Institute of Fundraising)
- FIA Conference
- IFC Conference
- Bridge to Integrated Marketing & Fundraising Conference
- The Learning Conference
Networking is one of the top values of these conferences. Attending these conferences also provides you with best practices and trends in the nonprofit world. It is a great place to exchange ideas and insights. You get out of these conferences what you put into them. If they are not held at a site this year, see if they will be virtually held. While you will miss the interaction, you will gain up-to-date knowledge.
An ASU Lodestar Center blog cites the importance of professional development in the nonprofit sector. In today’s world, roles are constantly changing, and new challenges arise in the workplace. Professional development is a great tool that allows professionals to thrive in their jobs. Advancements in technology, social media and economic instability are causing the need for greater professional development.
People working in nonprofits need more training opportunities in such areas as marketing, public relations, fundraising, strategic planning, board development, grant writing and organizational leadership. With a need for business leaders in nonprofits and their lack of knowledge of how nonprofit operates, professional development courses can close the gap between for-profit and nonprofit professionals. Professional development in the nonprofit sector today is a need, not a want.
Industry Tap into News pointed out that according to IBM, the build out of the “internet of things” will lead to the doubling of knowledge every 12 hours. The human brain indexing will consume several billion petabytes. A transition from the linear growth of human knowledge to the exponential growth of human knowledge has taken place. Researchers note the future development of complex software and artificial intelligence. Knowledge will continue to explode at a rapid pace, making historical knowledge important but obsolete to meet future challenges. I strongly suggest that you seek continuing education opportunities on an ongoing basis, starting today.
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, lecturer and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 11 years. He has been a long-standing member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals where he was previously named the AFP Indiana Chapter Fundraising Executive of the Year and has held the CFRE designation for many 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 completed post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. Contact Duke at email@example.com or 317-224-1029.