I just recently finished speaking at the CASE District VII Conference and I was thrilled to be asked and like most conferences walked away learning a great deal. Since most of my fundraising career was based in prospect research and prospect management I tend to look at not only what is the information directly telling me but what is indirectly being communicated. Here are some key take aways that I got from the conference – need for professional development and how we should be approaching budgets and goals. Part I will look at strictly professional development and in Part II I will cover budgets and goals.
Professional development is back on the map. Attendance for this conference was higher than expected and this is a good thing on many different levels. First being the need for professional development and how important that is in advancement services. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that professional development is not needed for the other areas of development but since I was speaking and attending sessions in the advancement services track it reinforced some beliefs that I have had for quite some time. The first point is that advancement services is always evolving and growing. If I only looked how prospect research has changed since I entered the profession in 1996 it is anything short of staggering. Just looking at the use of the internet alone greatly changed on how prospect researchers do the remarkable work that they do. If we did not embrace the new technologies and advances I can not even imagine how we could function. Technology has greatly changed how advancement services functions in the world today. I don’t see any sign of technology slowing and in fact some notable individuals in the field predict that it will change even faster than it has in the past.
There are many ways to tackle and grasp the advancements in our profession but number one is attending conferences. Whether they are being hosted by an association or by a vendor the need is very transparent. I truly believe it is no longer a question of if one should be attending but rather which ones you should be attending. It is more competitive now than ever in getting that donor and retaining that donor. How we successfully accomplish this is by attending these conferences. Learning from and speaking with our colleagues is one of the most powerful tools we can own. If you want your organizations to grow and continue to do the marvelous work that you do, you must invest in knowledge and products that help you achieve that goal. Because I will tell you that if you sit back and don’t invest in learning and what new resources are out there then you will be left in the dust and the other non-profits around you will continue to grow and thereby taking your donors away. Or maybe it is just turning your regular donor into an occasional donor. Either of these two options is not acceptable. Your primary focus should on how do you keep our regular donors, change our occasional donors to regular donors and taking non-donors and making them donors. Going with the philosophy of “this is how we have always done it” does not work anymore because if you honestly look at it you will know it is not working.
In Part II, I will cover taking that long hard look at budgets and goals. What questions should you be asking and how to make them honestly work.
Michael Quevli is a consultant for Target Analytics. You may reach him at email@example.com.