Fundraising is the foundation of your nonprofit’s success. If your nonprofit is a car, fundraising is the fuel allowing you to drive your mission forward (was that one too many car puns?) Effective fundraising allows you to continue funding your projects and programs to ultimately help more people and achieve your goals.
As a nonprofit professional (or an aspiring one), you may be looking to improve your fundraising skills for greater fundraising success in the future. In this guide, we’ll cover what you need to know about fundraising training, including:
Fundraising is a skill that you can practice and ultimately get better at over time. These tips and resources will help guide you in the right direction to achieve greater fundraising success.
Fundraising Training FAQs
Before we dive into a few fundraising training course options and resources, let’s explore some commonly asked questions about fundraising training and how to develop fundraising skills.
What level of education is needed for fundraising?
There are no sector-wide degree requirements for nonprofit fundraising professionals. However, certain degrees lend themselves more naturally to eventual fundraising success.
If you’re looking to go into fundraising after completing your college career, the following bachelor’s degrees lend themselves naturally to fundraising:
- Philanthropic studies
These degrees tend to focus on developing communication skills, conducting creative problem solving, increasing efficiency within organizations, and building other skills that can eventually help you become a better fundraiser.
Some universities even offer fundraising-related master’s degrees in the following fields:
- Philanthropic studies
- Nonprofit management
An advanced degree in either of these fields can train you specifically for managing the ins and outs of on-the-ground nonprofit work.
Some degrees may also align with specific nonprofit missions. Having a degree in your nonprofit’s field of research or work can give you an immense amount of credibility when it comes to discussing your organization’s mission and the important role fundraising plays in reaching your goals. The following degrees may be applicable to nonprofit work:
- Public health
- Education administration
- Environmental sciences/sustainability
Keep in mind that becoming an effective fundraiser isn’t about having a certain degree. In fact, many organizations don’t have a degree requirement to be able to apply for their fundraising positions. What’s more important than having a specific degree is that you have a variety of soft skills that fit well within the fundraising space and that you are a fast learner who can pick up new skills on the fly.
What are the most important fundraising skills?
Fundraising requires nonprofit professionals to leverage a variety of skills to spread mission awareness, connect with potential supporters, and ultimately convert these prospects into donors. It’s a fast-paced, engaging field that requires a combination of hard and soft skills such as:
- Written communication. Sending internal and external emails, drafting reports, publishing social media campaigns, and designing marketing materials are all written communications tasks that might pop up on a fundraiser’s daily task list.
- Oral communication. Fundraisers must also be able to deliver their nonprofit’s case for support verbally in front of a variety of audiences. Fundraisers need to be just as engaging when conducting one-on-one donor meetings with major donors as they are when giving presentations at conferences or other large events.
- Analytical skills. Effective fundraising also requires analytical skills to track progress, identify areas of strength and weakness, and create new strategies. Fundraising professionals may need to review fundraising metrics and compile the results into written or oral reports.
- Technical skills. The future of fundraising lies in innovative technology tools and strategies. Fundraisers need to know how to use a variety of tech tools effectively, including a nonprofit CRM, an online donation platform, and digital marketing platforms.
Depending on the size of the nonprofit, the fundraising team might be made up of several individuals who specialize in one of these skills. However, for many nonprofits, the fundraising team is made of just one or two individuals who must manage each of these activities effectively.
What are the main categories of fundraising?
When it comes to fundraising training, you won’t just be learning how to conduct one type of fundraising. Fundraising involves connecting with multiple individuals and groups — individual donors, corporate sponsors, grant funders, volunteers, and community members — to build relationships.
With that in mind, your fundraising training process should incorporate the following types of fundraising:
Each of these activities requires a different approach and skill set. For instance, earning corporate sponsorships requires meeting with business owners and making your case for support using meetings and written communications. Event planning may require recruiting and managing volunteers, handling logistics, and creating marketing materials.
Depending on the size of your organization and the fundraising team, you might be engaged in all or just a handful of these activities daily.
How can I improve my fundraising skills?
If you’re looking to get better at fundraising and increase your positive response rate, there are a few steps you can take right away to get started:
- Set personal goals. Set specific goals for yourself that you can work toward throughout the training process. For example, perhaps you want to improve your public speaking skills, connect better with potential donors during one-on-one meetings, or learn how to use fundraising software more efficiently. Having a clear goal in mind can help guide you as you decide what types of fundraising training to pursue.
- Take fundraising training courses or classes. There are a variety of fundraising webinars and courses available online that you can follow at your own pace. Some resources require a fee, but there are also several free options available. We’ll explore a few quality online training courses in the next section.
- Work with a fundraising consultant. If you’re looking to improve your nonprofit’s overall fundraising approach and train your full team on best practices, it’s helpful to work with a fundraising consultant. These experts have the experience and know-how needed to boost your fundraising strategy by filling gaps in your planning process, connecting with your unique supporter base, and training your team on how to build donor relationships.
- Learn how to pivot the conversation. As a fundraiser, you’ll hear plenty of “no’s” over time. Whether a prospect isn’t in the right place to give or doesn’t feel strongly connected to your mission yet, there are plenty of reasons why potential donors will turn you down. However, it’s your job to make sure you don’t burn any bridges or close any doors unintentionally. As you have conversations with potential donors, start to find ways that you can turn more “no’s” into “maybes” and even “yeses.” For example, figure out how you can engage donors in opportunities that aren’t all about fundraising, or get to know them better to send them fundraising requests that better align with their giving capacity.
- Keep an eye on fundraising trends and tech developments. New technologies, from matching gift software to AI for nonprofits, have vastly altered the way fundraising professionals operate. These innovations will continue to have a major impact on the nonprofit sector. Bookmark relevant nonprofit blogs such as Double the Donation, Getting Attention, and of course, NXUnite. These resources will help you stay in the know about the latest nonprofit software and fundraising strategy developments.
Now that you have a roadmap for improving your fundraising skills, let’s take a look at a few of the best fundraising training programs, resources, and workshops available.
8 Fundraising Training Courses & Resources
Best Fundraising Webinars and Panels
Nonprofit webinars and panels help novice fundraisers learn how to improve their skills from the top fundraising professionals in the sector. Attendees can hear from the first-hand experience of other fundraisers to incorporate best practices into their nonprofit’s strategies. Check out the following sources for engaging, informative webinars and panel discussions.
NXUnite has a full calendar of free webinars and panels geared toward nonprofit professionals and others in the social-good space. Topics range from nonprofit IT best practices to how to connect with donors from different generations. The panelists and presenters are long-time industry experts that offer a wide range of insights and personal experiences.
Double the Donation
If you’re looking specifically for information about improving your approach to corporate giving, including acquiring more matching gifts and volunteer grant funds, look no further than Double the Donation’s webinars. Double the Donation is the industry-leading provider of matching gift software for nonprofits, universities, and other fundraising organizations. Their webinars cover matching gift best practices and industry insights, integration updates, and general fundraising advice.
Best Fundraising Workshops
Sometimes, what your organization needs is an intensive deep dive that allows you to set up more efficient and effective fundraising processes. You can find what you’re looking for in the form of a fundraising workshop, such as the programs offered by Aly Sterling Philanthropy.
Aly Sterling Philanthropy
Aly Sterling Philanthropy is a nonprofit consulting firm that offers fundraising services ranging from strategic planning to board preparation and corporate philanthropy management. ASP offers three practical workshops focusing on board efficiency and engagement, board governance, and fundraising preparedness.
Fundraising professionals can also purchase a variety of primers and toolkits from ASP’s Nonprofit Store. The store includes guides for stewarding donors, creating a strong case for support for a capital campaign, and evaluating your board’s and executive director’s effectiveness.
Best Online Fundraising Courses
Fundraising courses allow fundraisers-in-training to work through relevant educational materials on their own time and at their convenience. With online fundraising courses, you can engage in training from anywhere and take things at your own pace. If you’re interested in taking a fundraising course, consider the following options.
The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) empowers fundraising professionals by offering professional development, networking, and research opportunities. The organization’s e-courses cover fundraising fundamentals, CRM management, and more. They also offer resources for Spanish-speaking fundraising professionals.
Also, AFP has teamed up with MindEdge to offer over 100 courses on everything from nonprofit leadership to finance and HR. These courses can apply to a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) certification. This certification designates an individual as an ethical fundraising professional who follows industry best practices and is committed to observing the highest fundraising standards.
Nonprofit.Courses offers thousands of online course options, and the vast majority (over 90%!) of them are free. Popular topics include grant-writing, accounting and finance, and starting up a new nonprofit. Nonprofit professionals can use these courses to earn continuing education certifications, such as certificates in web design, sustainable management, and more.
NonprofitReady offers free fundraising courses, allowing trainees to earn certificates and further their fundraising knowledge. Topics include online fundraising, email marketing, fundraising events, and more. Courses are designed by learning design professionals and nonprofit professional development experts.
Best Fundraising Professional Training Programs
Coaches aren’t just for sports teams—there are also plenty of coaches available to help you advance in your fundraising skills. Some nonprofit professionals dedicate their time to providing tailored training programs to meet new fundraisers where they are and build up their skills. Let’s take a look at a couple of top fundraising training programs and coaches!
The Fundraising Academy offers CFRE-accredited programs that integrate business best practices with donor relationship-building strategies. Their Cause Selling Education program allows you to learn amongst peers in a cohort environment. The program is targeted at helping you advance in all fundraising categories: major gift cultivation, planned giving, digital fundraising, and more.
The Fundraising Coach
Marc Pittman is a leadership coach, fundraising trainer, and founder of The Fundraising Coach, a training and coaching program aimed at helping nonprofit professionals build a variety of skills. These include time management, leadership, marketing, and fundraising. Marc hosts personalized training sessions with nonprofit leadership groups to help build confidence and competency. Plus, Marc also offers executive coaching designed to help nonprofit leaders reach their full potential.
Getting Started with Fundraising Training
Your fundraising training should be an ongoing process— even if you’re an experienced nonprofit professional with multiple years in the sector under your belt. No matter how experienced you think you are, there’s always more to learn!
If you’re looking to get connected and learn from other nonprofit professionals who have been in your shoes, explore the NXUnite community. We offer a variety of resources for nonprofit professionals, including webinars and resource lists of top industry solutions. Also, check out our list of upcoming nonprofit conferences to add a few more learning and networking opportunities to your calendar.
If you’re ready to jump right into fundraising training, get started by exploring these additional resources:
- The Future of Fundraising: AI and Capital Campaigns. The future of fundraising includes multiple innovative technologies that make fundraising easier. Explore the recent trend of using AI in fundraising with this post.
- 25 Nonprofit Podcasts You Should Listen To In 2022. Podcasts can be a great way to learn from anywhere— while driving your car, walking around your neighborhood, or folding your laundry! Here are 25 podcasts that will further your fundraising training.
- 3 Steps to Get Started With Fundraising Data Analytics. For many new fundraisers, reviewing analytics can be one of the most intimidating aspects of fundraising. This guide breaks the process down into simple steps and explains how to get started with tracking analytics.