Orr Associates, Inc.
Professional Development for Fundraisers: We Can Do More!
Is enough being done to educate, train, and share best practices within the fundraising profession? Our success and credibility as fundraisers rest on ensuring professional standards. Young fundraisers need and expect to be provided with opportunities to advance and hone their skills. On-the-job management and mentoring are vital, but should be supplemented with formal training, peer information-sharing, and educational programming. Other professions recognize and embrace this – are we there yet? 

The benefits of professional development are plentiful. Keeping up with “cutting edge” thinking and technology is both satisfying and empowers nonprofit staff to better serve their organization and donors. Employees are loyal to employers that invest in their future and that are prepared to support their careers and professional development. Moral of the story: Training and development is a win-win for both nonprofits and their staff. 

Within the fundraising profession, we have yet to establish and universally adopt industry standards for training and development. The current leader in this regard is CFRE International. CRFE’s Certified Fundraising Executive certification is a credible qualification which requires a mixture of formal higher education, continuing professional development, practice, and performance. The certification also requires candidates to pass a written exam. Fundraisers who aspire to attain and maintain this certification will benefit greatly from a continued investment in professional development by their employers.  

For the most part, the responsibility still falls on individual organizations to seek out, appraise, and offer training programs for their fundraising staff. The good news? There is a range of options. A good start is webinars and online training. To further develop staff's potential, there are the options of conference-based programming or working with a training organization to fully customize a curriculum for your specific organization.  
Web-based training is a cost-effective option

As the leading industry organiz ation, The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AF P) drives thought leadership and plays an important role in informing and educating on relevant topics faced by fundraisers at all levels in their careers. Organizations like AFP, as well as many independent training consultants, offer a wide range of educational programming.
Online webinars and training programs offer multiple benefits. First, they are generally less expensive than in-person alternatives. Secondly, they allow for greater flexibility. Trainees can attend at their convenience rather than at a set time, and from the comfort of their office or desk. Also, these programs are usually short and do not require a huge time commitment or investment. Webinar topics that are well-suited to the medium include online giving, event management, and donor data segmentation. 

However, these online programs do have some drawbacks. They are not generally customized to the style and culture of an organization and allow for very passive participation; it is all too easy to "multitask" while “attending” an online training program and come away with less new knowledge than intended. 

Conferences provide educational, as well as networking, opportunities

Nationally and internationally-affiliated organizations ( like the YMCA, for example) may offer conferences and educational programming for staff. While the investment in travel costs and time can be significan t, these conferences provide unmatched opportunities for information-sharing. Spending time away from one’s desk, with pee rs from other regions, enables collaboration and networking in ways that can’t be duplicated in classroom-based instruction. 
Additionally, industry sector-based conferences, such as those offered by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education , provide excellent programming for fundraisers serving educational institutions. The Association for Healthcare Philanthropy similarly offers coursework and conferences for those in the healthcare sector.
Customized training offers significant benefits

Another option for nonprofits is to engage a private trainer or firm to develop a single program or a series of customized programs. Partnering with an experienced trainer provides the benefit of their knowledge and ability to diagnose an organization’s specific needs. They will be able to develop a range of customized solutions. Even smaller organizations that don’t have the budget for annual programming can identify staff training needs and develop tailored coursework a few times a year.

In an industry that has historically suffered from high levels of staff turnover and burn-out, in-house training programs add value that can help with staff hiring and retention. They can help make teams more productive and staff more fulfilled. Nonprofits have a responsibility to train, develop and empower their staff to make better decisions. If we, industry leaders, want to turn the tide of high staff turnover, stagnant results, and disengaged donors, we must invest in our front-line fundraisers.

Want to learn more about OAI's custom professional development programs? Please contact your OAI client relationship manager or the author ( for more information or to talk about your needs.

OAI Directo r, Ana Canning' s articl e "A First Date with Data" was published on the GuideStar blog. It was originally featured in our April 2018 Newsletter. Her simple guide will kick-start your (necessary) courtship with Data. Read here.
OAI Directo r, Lisa Keitges , was interv iewed by the NYC chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. She spoke about her successful journey navigating and advancing in the nonprofit sector and offered her advice for others who want to do the same. Read here.
Environmental and Park Organizations Leadership Roundtable - April 19
At the Leadership Roundtable hosted by Morgan Stanley, OAI Managing Director, Craig Shelley, with Jeremy Jenkins, Vice President of Breckinridge Capital Advisors, moderated a discussion surrounding practical giving. They explored how to contribute to worthy causes, while still supporting heirs and fulfilling tax responsibilities. The Leadership Roundtable aimed to answer a common question surrounding philanthropic investment: how can my money do the most good? 
Ask a MentORR - April 20
Young fundraising professionals representing DC-area nonprofits joined OAI’s DC junior team to share their fundraising challenges and receive real-time counsel. The attendees and the OAI team collectively shared suggestions and potential solutions, and participants walked away with practical recommendations for moving their fundraising work forward. Topics included board and donor engagement, events management, and prospect research. Following the success of the inaugural event, OAI looks forward to hosting the event again in Fall 2018.
The North American YMCA Development Organization Conference (NAYDO), New Orleans, April 23 - 27
At NAYDO, OAI Managing Director, Craig Shelley , led a seminar on “Entrepreneurial Fundraising: Leveraging Innovation for Exponential Fundraising Growth”

As securing philanthropic investment becomes more competitive than ever before, the needs of nonprofits are changing. The goal of Craig’s seminar was to leave participants with a refreshed mindset and approach to fundraising, and practical ideas and best practices to utilize in their own organizations.
NY Junior League Nonprofit Boards Clearinghouse - April 28
OAI’s Director of Human Resources, Shaby Rosales and Director, Ana Canning , trained a group of 40 current and future nonprofit board members on nonprofit crisis management and strategic planning as part of the New York Junior League’s Nonprofit Boards Clearinghouse course.  

The crisis management workshop equipped participants with the information needed to anticipate, avert, and competently handle crises they may confront in their role as board members. The session on strategic planning guided attendees through the process of developing a nonprofit strategic plan, the role of the board in the planning process, and how to avoid common planning pitfalls. 
GrantSpace Special Program: Technology for your Nonprofit - April 30
OAI staff CJ Orr, Brandon Emerson, and Katie Nickels presented a 2-hour workshop d esigned for nonprofit CEOs, COOs, DODs and Communications Officers at the Foundation Center in New York. They delved into various technological tools available for donor tracking, cultivation, communications, and more. The 30 attendees learned about new tools that can streamline fundraising and increase revenues and learned how to assess their current tech infrastructure.
AFP of NYC Leadership Conversation - June 15
OAI is partnering with the New York City Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals to host a Leadership Conversation in New York City. Andrea Jung, President and CEO of  Grameen America , will speak at this invitation-only event. Since its inception, Grameen America has invested $820 million in low-income women entrepreneurs and their visions. In her leadership position, Ms. Jung aims to expand the reach of the organization to solve economic issues for women and their families throughout the country.
Responding to the increasingly complex burdens on nonprofit leaders, OAI has developed a transformational approach to fundraising and strategy consulting.  Our teams of experienced professionals seamlessly embed themselves with nonprofits to fundraise, to recruit and improve board leadership, to build consensus and direction through new strategies, and to provide executive, fundraising, and financial leadership. With offices in Washington, DC and New York City, OAI has partnered in our clients' success for more than 25 years, helping more than 600 nonprofits raise hundreds of millions of dollars for their causes. 
See how we can help you today at .