It’s been almost 20 years since I was first introduced to the nonprofit world. At the time, I was working part-time for a prominent career coach in Palm Beach County Florida. But Toby (my coach) wasn’t your typical career coach, she also planned and hosted Board trainings and served and volunteered at children’s organizations. She was a leader. And you can still find her advocating and championing for children in South Florida today.

One day Toby approached me about a job opportunity at a local children’s education organization. Work was slow and she was going to have to let me go, but in true Toby fashion she already had something lined up for me. I got a job working in the development office and I fell in love. Like many of you, I never planned to go into the nonprofit industry and certainly didn’t train for it, but when I discovered the work and the people I was instantly smitten. After all this time I still love it and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

After years of encouragement by my mentors, I decided to apply for my CFRE. When I sat in my car following the exam this past February, I cried. I had finally done it—I achieved what I consider to be one of the biggest milestones in my fundraising career. I am now a Certified Fundraising Executive.

I became the next, better version of myself, not complete, and by no means done, but I set a goal, worked hard and achieved something great in my professional career.

What will you do to become the next, better you?

I am lucky that Blackbaud values professional development and invested in my career through the CFRE, but I know that many nonprofits don’t always place a high value on professional development, nor the resources allocated to do so.

But what can you do to change that?

  1. Do your homework on what opportunities exist for education and development
  2. Figure out the cost and time needed to do it
  3. Talk to your manager and propose making this a priority for the team
    1. Be prepared to explain how investing in smarter, more knowledgeable employees will make the organization stronger
  4. Suggest a budget for the year
  5. Incorporate the goals into each person’s KPIs

If neither your manager nor the organization are interested in making this a priority, then take control of your future and put your own plan together.

Only you can make the next, better you.

Ask yourself two simple questions:

  1. Where do you want to be in 1 year and 3 years?
  2. What skills and knowledge must you acquire to get there?

Follow these steps:

  • Subscribe to blogs, enews and twitter feeds that are related to what you want to learn about
  • Dedicate time every week to read from those resources. I usually set aside 1-2 hours on my calendar to do it
  • Research and find the free and low cost webinars where you can learn and expand your knowledge, then sign up (set a goal for the year, I would shoot for 6 webinars)
  • Check out the local nonprofit associations, they usually host monthly meetings with guest speakers on a range of nonprofit topics
  • Even if your manager doesn’t make it required, take the initiative to add it into your goals for the year
  • And finally, consider submitting a session for a conference like BBCON or AFP. Eventually you will move on or seek out a promotion, and to land that job you’ll need to have established yourself as an expert—presenting at a conference is a big step in that direction.

Check out these sites to get you started on the road to the next, better you.

And don’t forget to be a part of the conversations on Twitter:



You can also find me tweeting about fundraising and comics @djvermenton, check out my presentations on SlideShare and subscribe to npENGAGE to receive that latest on all things nonprofit.


Danielle Johnson-Vermenton, CFRE, is a Principal Consultant at Blackbaud and is often called to present at events like Digital Leap, AFP Planet Philanthropy and BBCON.  Prior to Blackbaud, Danielle worked in the nonprofit industry in roles such as director of individual giving at Boys & Girls Clubs, leadership giving manager at the Red Cross and director of development at HUGS for Kids. Danielle’s passion is inspiring nonprofits to have a plan for today with a grand vision for tomorrow. You can follow Danielle @DJVermenton and find her blogging on npENGAGE.

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