Over the last few decades, I’ve spoken with a wide variety of fundraising leaders about what they see as key components of their department’s success. Invariably, the topic of supporting professional development for fundraising team members comes up.
Some leaders quickly dismiss the value of professional development, seeing it as a “nice to have” rather than a “have to have.” Others are pessimists worried that fundraising professionals who have opportunities to learn will simply take that knowledge and head out the door with the next new employment opportunity that comes along.
However, the leaders I’d characterize as exceptional—those who build strong teams and achieve enviable fundraising results—believe passionately in supporting their staff’s professional development.
Whether budgets are big or small—these leaders devote resources to helping their people grow.
In addition to being the right thing to do, exceptional leaders know it is the practical thing to do. They recognize that professional development equals significant, sustainable fundraising results.
There are a number of reasons why making professional development a priority leads to more effective fundraising and a stronger fundraising team:
- Lifelong learners need opportunities to grow. In my experience, the best team members are lifelong learners. They care deeply about fundraising and have a driving need to expand their professional knowledge while growing their skills.
This perspective can’t be taught. Yet, it is vitally important if your fundraising team is going to be adaptable and ready for what comes next, despite the vicissitudes of an increasingly challenging fundraising environment.
- Turnover diminishes when team members feel valued. Turnover remains a pressing issue in the fundraising profession.
According to the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ Compensation and Benefits Survey 2021, over 40 percent of fundraisers in the U.S. and Canada looked for a job with another employer within the last 12 months. Meanwhile, just under 40 percent have been with their current organization two years or fewer.
While the occasional fun perk can make team members feel appreciated, the best way to make your team feel valued is by letting them know you believe they have potential—and backing that up with concrete support for professional development.
Team members who are encouraged to expand their professional horizons through consistent support for their pursuit of CFRE certification, attendance at conferences, and other training opportunities are more likely to remain satisfied with their current employer and less likely to seek employment elsewhere.
- Professional attainment elevates team credibility. The better your team’s qualifications, the higher their credibility—whether that’s within the larger development team, with other organizational departments, or with key stakeholders such as volunteer leaders and funders.
We all know fundraising is often undervalued both within organizations and externally. Professional development for your team is a direct investment in raising their credibility among peers—and the credibility of the fundraising profession overall.
Ultimately, as an exceptional leader, your people are your legacy.
Supporting professional development for your team has profound, meaningful, and positive repercussions that mean better fundraising today and better-equipped fundraising professionals to lead philanthropy into the future.
Meet today’s challenges and tomorrow’s opportunities by investing in professional development for your team—you and your organization will be happy you did.