We recently published what happens in “a day in the life” of bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D. degree students. So, I thought it would be fun to showcase one of the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy’s institutes or schools.
All four are fascinating, but I needed a place to start. So, I went to the “granddaddy of them all” (channeling my knowledge of college football and the Rose Bowl) — The Fund Raising School.
Established in 1974, The Fund Raising School is the preeminent professional training and education program, and the catalyst behind the creation of the Center on Philanthropy at IUPUI in 1987.
I didn’t want to look at a day (although if you look at May 17 to be exact, The Fund Raising School had three public courses in two cities and one online, plus two custom workshops), because I don’t think one would understand the full breadth of opportunities offered in that time frame. So, I looked at the past five months to try and achieve a better understanding of The Fund Raising School.
My first stop wasn’t really a stop, but a listen. Since January, The Fund Raising School has released a weekly, 10-minute, free podcast called First Day Podcast. Released at 8 am ET on Mondays, it’s a quick dose of fundraising for listeners every week from experts in the field.
Some of the topics so far?
Fundraising from donor advised funds from Jodi Rosen, an expert at Vanguard Charitable, to how giving makes one happy from Dr. Debra Mesch and Women Give 2017, to watching your fundraising language from Dr. Tim Seiler, to the new federal tax policy’s impact on fundraising from Dr. Patrick Rooney.
I try to start my Mondays with these podcasts. Even though I’m not a fundraiser, I find helpful information and questions to ponder. So if you’re a fundraiser or even work in a nonprofit, I’m positive these podcasts will be informative! Plus, you can find them on The Fund Raising’s School app, and play them during Monday morning rush hour.
February’s stop was at the course Fundraising for Small Nonprofits. Now, this course is very cool. Tuition for it is only $199, so for nonprofits with a small budget, it’s very affordable. As manager of training programs Liz Jackson put it, “it’s our way of giving back to the community.”
When I went, class was full. Nonprofit representatives not only from all over Indiana, but people from Michigan, Ohio, Alabama, Missouri, Iowa, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. descended upon Indianapolis for this course. I stayed for the first part of the morning, and faculty member Roberta Donahue had every person introduce themselves, state their nonprofit’s budget, the challenges their nonprofit faced, and what they hoped to gain from the course. Then, we dived right in. I don’t want to give away the course material, so just look at some of the feedback from course members.
- “This provided a thorough overview in only two days! I am ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work!”
- “(This course) was just the training I needed and gave me the structure for success.”
- “This course was extremely helpful. Thank you for making it affordable for small nonprofits!”
- “This course has immense value, especially to small fundraising departments at nonprofits. I have confidence to fundraise for my organization! I walked away with action-oriented tasks that I can start now that I’m back in the office. On top of everything, I feel like I have a larger network of support.”
Etc., etc. You get the idea.
March was based on a conversation and a virtual stop. Throughout the past several months, The Fund Raising School has paired with United Way Worldwide (UWW) to host a series of custom courses for United Way leaders in Indianapolis and UWW’s headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. These courses have ranged from grant writing, to marketing and digital fundraising, to planned giving.
First, I spoke with associate director Dr. Sarah Nathan about what UWW wanted in these courses.
“We had a marketing for fundraising course and a digital fundraising course, but they wanted both of those topics in one course. So, we integrated them and built a custom course out of that material,” Dr. Nathan said. “It’s transformed into a unique partnership. We’ve been offering these courses, especially the marketing and digital fundraising course, every month since February.”
And, just in case you were curious (I was), here is some of the feedback from this custom course.
- “I felt that I learned a lot of new materials that will be useful in my organization, will also be brushing up on key concepts.”
- “I thought this was a great course. I love that it was led by nonprofit professors who have much experience in the world we work in. Their real-life experiences helped make marketing concepts more relatable and understandable for the group.”
- “This was a terrific use of my time. The instructors were excellent. I would definitely recommend it to others.”
And now, ending in April and May, with a new course on a topic that’s been “all the rage” in the nonprofit and business communities: impact investing.
“It’s a new phenomenon in the sector, which is primarily spearheaded by philanthropic foundations and some large investment firms,” Dr. Nathan explained. “These organizations are going to make investments in social ventures where they expect some kind of return. After that investment is paid back, the organization can give it out again.”
The course was built a bit differently than other The Fund Raising School courses. Instead of one or two expert faculty members teaching all of the subject material, they brought in multiple skilled practitioners in the field, including Dr. Leslie Lenkowsky, professor emeritus of public affairs and philanthropy; Rebecca Brooks, a private wealth advisor; George Suttles of The John A. Hartford Foundation, and other subject experts.
Offering a wide range of presenters who have different skills, experiences, and knowledge about impact investing gave participants the ability to learn about the topic from multiple different angles. I personally sat in on a session with Jay Hein, president of the Sagamore Institute here in Indianapolis.
He spoke about Sagamore Institute’s emphasis on applied research, entrepreneurship, and social impact and business models. As someone with practically no previous knowledge of impact investing, I enjoyed Hein’s relatable talk and how Sagamore Institute plans to find new ways to invest into Indianapolis in the near future.
So ends my journey through five months in The Fund Raising School’s life. That’s just a sampling of what’s offered though. From January through May, 10 different public courses have been offered 32 times in 10 different cities and online.
In addition, there have been 60 specifically-designed, custom programs for partners during that time. Oh, and don’t forget two webinars and 17 podcasts. Clearly, I’m unable to attend all of these courses or participate in everything The Fund Raising School offers, but from what I have seen, there’s a lot of value to be gained from multiple different avenues. Simply stated, there’s something for everyone.
As for me and the next month, I’m hoping to pop into a session during the Leadership Roundtable, which is offered in Indianapolis on June 28-29 and features information on donor advised funds, social innovation fundraising, and fundraising from millennials.
There’s always something new to learn, and I’ve definitely found that to be true with The Fund Raising School!
Abby Rolland is the blog content coordinator for the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.