If we sit down and really think about all the areas within fundraising and which areas have been impacted the most, I would have to say advancement services which can include gift processing, prospect research and prospect management. The field of prospect research alone has completely transformed since I entered the profession back in 1996. I then asked myself what other area within development has seen such tremendous changes with regards to technology, process, and responsibility. The answer is quite clear. The changes are only going to continue and at higher rate and in a shorter amount of time. The number of significant changes from 1996 – 2010 could equal the changes we see from 2011 to 2018.
The only way we are going to be on top of this is by ensuring that professional development is a part of our lives on an annual basis. We can not afford to be behind the times because we know that other institutions will stay abreast of what is happening and what will be happening in the future. So how can you ensure that your professional development continues to grow?
- Start documenting what you have learned and how it affects the bottom line. In other words, show them the ROI on you continuing to be actively engaged in professional development with your colleagues.
- Start to volunteer with associations – Put yourself out there and become involved. One way I ensured that professional development continued for me was by speaking and volunteering with APRA. I started at the chapter level and worked my way up. This is a great way to stay involved and shows your institution that you are taking a very active interest in your job/career. Even if speaking is not your thing then become involved with committees and task forces. This keeps you actively engaged with your colleagues. Document what you have learned and how it has helped you in your day-to-day tasks and goals.
- Become involved with vendor conferences – I attended my very first Blackbaud conference and realized that this is a wonderful opportunity to not only provide you with detailed information on how to positively impact what you do around prospect research/management but you can attend sessions that would help your colleagues and bring back that information to them. Share this with your colleagues and make a presentation to the entire team. As a result you may also impact the professional development of your colleagues.
- When you receive the curriculum for conferences you are interested in review all the sessions and determine what will not only benefit what you do but how there are sessions that can other areas within development. So ultimately I am telling you to be proactive and not just sit and hope that you can go to a conference but document why this conference or set of conferences will positively impact your organization.