I am not a fundraiser.
I say that now, in order to clarify that what I say is not the opinion of someone from the field and with practical experience. My experience is with marketing and communications, and while I have worked with fundraisers in the past through previous roles, I don’t have direct fundraising experience.
But that didn’t matter.
As I was sitting in the course Developing Major Gifts, taught by The Fund Raising School faculty, I realized that I didn’t need to have fundraising experience to understand the knowledge being taught. Would it have been helpful? Sure! Was it necessary to understand the knowledge shared? No!
That’s the beauty of The Fund Raising School – its courses give practical and engaging information that is applicable to experienced fundraisers AND those new to the field.
First, the practical.
Our first exercise revolved around reading about and discussing a case story focused on a donor who gave multiple unsolicited donations and then a large major gift. Without going into too much detail, the participants at each table discussed the donors and the gifts, and what they as fundraisers should do.
Diving deeper into donor motivations and engagement, it definitely got me thinking about how fundraisers do their jobs, and how challenging it can be to segment donors and devise ways to speak to each diverse segment.
The second part was around ethics in fundraising. The answer to the case study was not black and white, and I could tell the fundraisers in the room grappled with the issue. I did too. It makes me ask the question – how far does one go when accepting a major philanthropic gift? The line between an acceptable gift and one that’s not is a thin one. The instructor did point out several clear, tangible steps that each fundraiser could do in order to avoid dealing with an ethics issue on their own.
That leads me to the engagement. The first instructor of the afternoon was Bill Stanczykiewicz, the director of The Fund Raising School. Again, I am not a fundraiser, but Stanczykiewicz made all of the information so interesting. He held my attention the whole time, and he presented the material in an easy-to-understand way. He used to be on radio, and you can tell. He also made an effort to say everyone’s name when he called on them and gave everyone a chance to say their opinion, while staying on topic the whole time.
Our second instructor on the ethics section was Dr. Gene Tempel. Now, this man is a legend in the fields of fundraising and philanthropy. He helped facilitate the transfer of The Fund Raising School to the then-Center on Philanthropy and served as the executive director and founding dean of the school. And here he was, co-teaching this course. Again, engaging.
He asked questions, made us question our ways of thinking, and gave the fundraisers clear steps to take in regards to ethics while also letting them tussle with potential answers and repercussions. Again, I was riveted the entire time.
Now, this is not the extent of the course or the instructors of The Fund Raising School. I sat in on one afternoon of a three-day course, and The Fund Raising School offers 17 public courses in 14 cities, online courses, and customized training all throughout the year, so there are many fantastic instructors with huge amounts of knowledge about fundraising. The amount I learned in one afternoon was astounding, and it was all so interesting.
Some advice? Take these courses.
As I said before, whether you’re an experienced fundraiser, new to the field and wanting to learn more, a board member who wants to get more involved, or you’re involved in some other way with a nonprofit organization, take these courses. You will learn, and network, and engage, and grow.
I know I did.
Abby Rolland is the blog content coordinator for the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.