How does one serve more kids and teens across America?
Julie Teer, chief development and public affairs officer at the Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA), sees the perfect link between empowering fundraising leaders and serving more children. So when BGCA wanted to find advanced leadership training for advanced Boys & Girls Clubs (BGC) fundraisers, she knew the perfect partner.
“We wanted to develop a comprehensive program of leadership and professional development for fundraising professionals in Boys & Girls Clubs across the nation,” Teer said. “We wanted the gold standard: the very best program available.”
Susan Schnase, national director of resource development club services at BGCA, reached out to The Fund Raising School to connect. With a background in communications, teaching, and fundraising, Schnase’s job is to find and coordinate trainings and educational offerings for fundraisers and other staff members in the Boys & Girls Clubs movement.
“A lot of knowledge in this field comes from a fundraiser’s own experience,” Schnase said. “While that is valuable, the academic focus of the school and the integrity with which its findings are developed make The Fund Raising School the leader in fundraising teaching. It seemed like a natural partnership between BGCA and the school in order to increase knowledge for our most advanced fundraisers.”
At the same time, leadership at BGCA was grappling with the issue of fundraiser retention. The idea of an advanced learning and networking program, with the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy partnership, was born.
“This partnership enables us to continue to elevate the position of resource development professional in Clubs. As we witnessed the national trend of high turnover in fundraising positions, we developed a strategy to retain fundraising talent,” Teer explained. “The partnership with The Fund Raising School and Lilly Family School of Philanthropy is one key element of this strategy. High-level learning opportunities such as this one help resource development professionals to build their skills, achieve more success, and connect to colleagues, all of which we believe will impact retention.”
A week’s worth of curriculum was developed, with much of the training focused on leadership development. Sessions such as “Leadership v. Management,” “Transformational v. Transactional Leadership,” and “Leading the Innovation Process” sought to help fundraisers from BGCs across the country develop stronger leadership skills.
“We hope that they become even stronger leaders in philanthropy, in their Club, and in their community,” Schnase said.
Imbued into the training sessions was also the most cutting-edge philanthropy research, including sessions on empathy and fundraising, engaging diverse donors, and information about Giving USA and the Generosity Index. BGC fundraisers also learned about BGCA’s history from the Ruth Lilly Special Collections and Archives.
“We wanted them to have a grounding in the movement’s past and all that the club had accomplished,” Schnase said.
She found that the custom course partnership between BGCA and The Fund Raising School had many benefits for the fundraisers in attendance: “Being able to step away from the pressures of the job for one week to deepen their thinking about developing themselves as a professional and taking their fundraising practice to the next level was a huge benefit to all of the participants. They also thoroughly enjoyed learning about current research that they may not have heard before.
“Building a supportive network across representatives from various clubs was an added benefit. Now, these fundraisers can lean on this network if they’re having challenges or victories, when they need examples or best practices, or when they want to share something really interesting. That’s been incredibly helpful.”
Commitment to this partnership is also carried throughout the entire organization. At the inaugural institute, leadership across BGCA’s resource development department, including Teer, were in attendance, learning alongside fundraising professionals from across the country.
Schnase hopes that this training will help each fundraiser build more success at each of their clubs: “I hope that they are able to harness some of the resources and tools presented to secure more and bigger gifts, possibly from people they might not have been speaking to before or using techniques they may not have previously used.
“I think as you develop the fundraiser, so goes the organization. Ultimately, we hope that they are able to raise more money so we can serve more kids, serve them better, and produce greater impact.”
Schnase sees the benefit of training not only for the BGC fundraisers, but for The Fund Raising School and Lilly Family School of Philanthropy as well.
“We hope there’s an opportunity for knowledge sharing, and that our fundraisers can contribute practical knowledge and experience to inform what the school’s researchers study. That’s a huge mutual benefit that accrues to both the nonprofit and the education institution when we collaborate on this kind of a partnership,” she said.
From Teer: “By focusing on cutting-edge research and techniques, the partnership empowers fundraisers, arms them with new strategies and ways of thinking, opens up new donor populations, and changes conversations with donors.
“We are already seeing the positive impact at local Clubs and at BGCA.”