If you work in the fundraising space, you know how fast-paced, challenging, and exciting it can be. On any given day, your to-do list might include reaching out to donors, planning engaging events, and promoting your organization online. Whether you work for a nonprofit, university, or other organization, you’ve likely experienced a few fundraising successes and failures and learned important lessons along the way.
Now, you might be looking for some structured resources and tips to help you approach fundraising professional development strategically. That’s probably what brought you here today!
In this guide, we’ll cover a few frequently asked questions about fundraising professional development and provide you with effective formal and informal resources you can use to grow as a fundraiser. We’ll answer the following questions:
- Why is nonprofit fundraising professional development important?
- Where can you find fundraising professional development resources?
- What are the best fundraising resources for professional development?
- What are some informal ways to pursue fundraising professional development?
Taking the time to improve your fundraising skills and grow your fundraising network can help you plan better fundraising campaigns and events for your organization, ultimately helping you raise more. It’s a win-win for you and the cause you’re working for!
Why is nonprofit fundraising professional development important?
Professional development has benefits both for you as a fundraiser and for your organization as a whole. Here are some specific benefits of fundraising professional development:
- Avoid burnout or stagnation. Being proactive and thinking of ways to grow within your role can help reignite your passion for your position and avoid the negative impacts of burnout.
- Advance in your career path. Building your professional fundraising skills may help you receive a promotion and grow as a leader within your organization. This is especially true if you take the time to earn fundraising certificates or other continuing education credits.
- Learn about the latest fundraising technologies and innovations. As you expand your fundraising skill set and general knowledge, you’ll come across information about the latest fundraising software, strategies, and innovations. You can implement these insights into your organization’s strategies to take advantage of new opportunities and fundraising best practices.
- Improve your leadership and mentorship skills. Making the effort to grow as a fundraising professional can also help you grow as a leader and mentor within your organization. You can provide guidance and career advice for other fundraising professionals at your organization, making your team more effective.
To approach fundraising professional development productively, set personal goals. For example, you might identify a certification you’d like to pursue or plan to set aside a specific amount of time each week to pursue professional development. Having a specific goal in mind will help you measure your progress and make tangible strides toward becoming a better fundraiser.
Where can you find fundraising professional development resources?
It can be challenging to parse through the hundreds of websites and resources online that offer fundraising development support. To help narrow down your search, here are a few common sources of fundraising professional development resources and courses:
- Aggregators like NXUnite. NXUnite helps connect fundraising professionals with resources and educational opportunities such as panels and webinars.
- Recommendations from your fellow nonprofit professionals. Long-time fundraising professionals at your organization or similar organizations will likely be able to point you toward resources that they’ve found to be the most helpful. Request a quick meeting with a mentor or other leader at your organization to get more information about their professional development path.
- Nonprofit associations. Nonprofit associations and organizations provide fundraising courses, blog posts from industry experts, conference reminders, and more. You can even join your local chapter of a larger organization to network with other fundraising professionals in your area. We’ll discuss nonprofit associations in more detail later.
- Course catalogs from universities. Higher education institutions will often offer professional development courses and seminars that anyone can attend. For example, the University of Georgia’s Center for Continuing Education offers a nonprofit fundraising essentials course. Indiana University offers fundraising courses through The Fund Raising School with topics such as developing major gifts and managing capital campaigns.
Read on for a more in-depth look at our top options for fundraising professional development resources!
What are the best fundraising resources for professional development?
You have a range of options to consider for different ways you can build your fundraising skills. These options include everything from taking an online course to attending conferences.
Specifically, here’s a closer look at some of our favorite professional development resources for fundraisers:
A webinar is an online discussion or seminar where industry experts share their insights and opinions about specific topics. Nonprofit webinars bring together fundraising experts with individuals looking to expand their fundraising efforts or skill set to provide more value to their organizations.
Webinars are helpful if you don’t have a lot of free time on your hands to devote to fundraising professional development. Most are an hour or less, so you may even be able to join on your lunch break.
Take a look at our top two sources for nonprofit webinars:
NXUnite delivers a wide range of nonprofit webinars and panels with well-known nonprofit experts and influencers. Topics go beyond the fundraising basics to get to the heart of the challenges and opportunities that fundraisers currently face. Plus, these webinars offer insights for the entire mission-driven sector as a whole. That means there’s something for everyone, from nonprofit professionals to professionals working with associations, faith organizations, schools, and more.
Interested in participating in or presenting at an NXUnite panel? Sign up to join the NXUnite community.
Double the Donation
Double the Donation is the leading industry expert on matching gift fundraising. Their webinars can help you understand how to maximize your fundraising revenue from this important but often overlooked source. But their webinars cover more than matching gifts—topics also include volunteer grants, workplace giving, integration deep dives, and general fundraising best practices. Visit the Double the Donation website for more information on live and on-demand webinars.
Online learning has exploded in popularity in recent years, giving fundraisers a way to continue their education while working full-time jobs. If you’re looking for more in-depth fundraising training, taking an online course can be an effective way to develop your skills while working at your own pace. Plus, many online fundraising courses are completely free.
Let’s review some of our favorite online fundraising courses:
Nonprofit.Courses offers thousands of online courses for nonprofit staff and board members and volunteers. Course topics include grantwriting, fundraising, start-up for small nonprofits, and more. They also offer courses to help earn a variety of certificates like a nonprofit management certification. You can also check out the free content offered by Nonprofit.Courses, which includes podcasts, videos, and documents.
NonprofitReady provides free online training courses for fundraising professionals. These courses cover common fundraising tasks and challenges, including accounting and finance, marketing and communications, and much more. They also empower fundraisers to earn free certificates in areas such as fundraising essentials and financial management essentials.
Udemy offers a broad range of courses, not only for nonprofit professionals but also for business professionals. Their nonprofit courses run the gamut from graphic design for nonprofits to how to start a nonprofit with limited resources. Udemy also offers a nonprofit plan for 501(c)(3) organizations, granting them special pricing and access to thousands of on-demand courses.
Associations and accrediting organizations
As mentioned, associations can be a great resource for getting connected to fundraising professional development opportunities. Associations bring nonprofit professionals together to learn, make connections, and grow in their profession. Joining an association can help you find free resources and new opportunities that you might otherwise not have access to.
In addition, there are multiple accrediting organizations that set fundraising standards and offer certifications for nonprofit professionals to earn that prove their fundraising capabilities. Earning these certifications shows current and potential employers that you’ve committed to the highest standards of professionalism in the fundraising space.
Here’s a closer look at a few fundraising associations and accrediting organizations you may be interested in joining:
The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) brings together individual fundraisers and nonprofit organizations to promote ethical fundraising and train professionals on fundraising best practices. AFP facilitates both in-person professional development and online learning. Check out the event calendar to learn more about and sign up for in-person engagement opportunities.
Their online learning opportunities include webinars, e-courses, and intensive workshops.
Your state’s nonprofit association or membership organization
Joining a local association within your region or state can be highly beneficial for networking with other professionals that understand the unique fundraising environment of your local area.
You can either find your local chapter of a larger association such as AFP or look for other organizations that specifically focus on your area. For example, you might join the Georgia Center for Nonprofits, the Ohio Association of Nonprofit Organizations, or CalNonprofits. A regional or local organization will host events and webinars that bring together other fundraising professionals in your area who are dealing with similar issues.
CFRE (Certified Fund Raising Executive) International is an independent nonprofit with a mission to set standards for the philanthropic space and facilitate accreditations for fundraising professionals. To become a CFRE, nonprofit professionals must first earn continuing education points in a variety of topic areas. After reaching the point requirement, professionals can fill out an application and complete a written examination.
Receiving the CFRE certification shows employers that you have a broad knowledge base of fundraising and nonprofit management topics, that you’re invested in growing and developing as a fundraiser, and that you adhere to the highest standards of ethical fundraising. Learn more about the certification and requirements on the CFRE website.
Public speaking and presentation training
Fundraising professionals are often surprised when they realize how much of the success of their role depends on their public speaking skills. As a fundraiser, you probably engage with a variety of internal and external audiences on a regular basis, from your fellow staff members to volunteers, donors, corporate partners, and more. Communicating effectively with these different groups is critical to garnering support for your nonprofit’s fundraising efforts.
Let’s take a look at our favorite public speaking resource:
Be Brilliant Presentation Group
Be Brilliant Presentation Group is a public speaking organization that helps working professionals grow in their presentation skills and become more impactful, inspiring speakers. Individuals looking for tailored public speaking coaching can gain access to a tried-and-true presentation framework, one-on-one coaching, and interactive workshops.
Taking your unique presentation style into account, your speaking coach will work with you to help you develop your skills and create an approach that works best for you. Your coach can also help you specifically with preparations for a conference speech or presentation and even provide day-of assistance. Speak with a coach today to find out more.
Nothing brings nonprofit professionals together quite like a conference. A conference allows fundraising professionals to discuss trends, challenges, and opportunities within the fundraising space. These experiences are invaluable for the connections that they foster and strategic partnerships they can help forge between organizations and individuals.
If you’re interested in attending a conference to brush up on the latest fundraising trends and best practices, here are a few to consider adding to your calendar:
Double the Donation’s Matching Gift Summit
Double the Donation’s Matching Gift Summit offers a chance for nonprofit professionals to come together to join in roundtable discussions and hear presentations about matching gifts. This conference will provide you with a more developed strategy for raising more funding for your organization through matching gifts.
You’ll also hear insight about how to use Double the Donation’s tools to their full potential to streamline the matching gift process as much as possible. The easier you can make the matching gift process for donors, the more funding you can earn from this source.
The exact date for this year’s matching gift summit hasn’t been announced yet, but you can check NXUnite’s nonprofit conference page for updates!
Considered the world’s largest fundraising conference, AFP’s International Conference (also known as AFP Icon) is a multi-day conference that brings together nonprofit professionals from a wide array of backgrounds and organizations. The 2022 conference schedule included sessions on leveraging digital ads for fundraising success, inclusion and equity issues in fundraising, and how to advance in your fundraising career.
AFP ICON 2023 is scheduled for April 16-18 in New Orleans. Keep an eye on the website for updates.
Labeled a “must-attend” nonprofit conference by Forbes, Cause Camp brings together leaders, influencers, and other movers and shakers in the fundraising world. Along with presentations and panels, Cause Camp offers breakout sessions that are geared toward facilitating training, not just discussions. Plus, attendees can earn up to five CFRE credits for attending.
Cause Camp 2023 will be held in Greater Sandusky, Ohio on September 14 and 15.
Nonprofit Technology Conference
The Nonprofit Technology Conference (otherwise known as the NTC) is an annual gathering focused on how technology works within the nonprofit sector. The conference is hosted by NTEN, an organization dedicated to bringing together nonprofit professionals to use technology for good. The NTC offers breakout sessions, networking opportunities, and other educational experiences to advance the field of nonprofit technology and use.
The next NTC will be held April 12-14, 2023, in Denver, Colorado.
Check out NXUnite’s roundup of the best nonprofit conferences to explore additional opportunities.
What are some informal ways to pursue fundraising professional development?
Attending a conference or earning a certificate aren’t the only ways to grow as a fundraiser. You can pursue fundraising professional development in more casual settings as well. For instance, you can:
- Listen to podcasts. Podcasts can be a great way to listen to diverse perspectives and learn from anywhere, whether you’re out on a run, at the grocery store, or driving to work. Seek out nonprofit-specific podcasts—there’s no shortage of them!
- Find a mentor. Connect with a leader at your organization, a long-time staff member, or a fundraising professional at another organization to ask if they’d be willing to be a professional mentor. Set up a coffee shop meeting or casual lunch to meet with your mentor and ask for career advice.
- Attend local networking events. Get involved in networking events hosted by local associations, nonprofits, and even business organizations. Speaking with professionals outside of the nonprofit sector can help you think of creative or outside-the-box strategies to tackle challenges or grow as a working professional.
- Reach out to individuals in similar roles at other organizations. Connect with your counterparts at other organizations to ask if you can get their perspective on how they’re tackling common fundraising challenges. Also, ask them whether they’ve pursued any professional development activities and what they found to be the most helpful.
Any opportunities you have to surround yourself with fundraising knowledge and insight is another step toward developing as a fundraising professional.
Fundraising professional development should be an ongoing goal. The fundraising landscape is constantly changing, with new technologies, strategies, and best practices being introduced. Keeping up with this shifting world will allow you to advance in your career and bring more value to your organization.
For more information on fundraising professional development, check out these additional resources:
- Nonprofit Fundraising Training: FAQs and 8 Top Resources. Looking for more information on fundraising training and the best courses to take? This guide has everything you need to know.
- The Top 3 Fundraising Metrics You Should Be Tracking. Understanding fundraising metrics is an important aspect of growing as a fundraiser. Here are three important metrics to be aware of.
- Cause-Related Marketing: A Brief Guide for Nonprofits. Effective marketing is a critical aspect of getting the word out about your fundraisers. Use this guide to help develop your cause-related marketing skills.