When I first became a fundraiser in the early 1990s, taking part in training courses and attending a three day annual national Fundraising Conference were really the only ways of accessing personal development in many not-for-profit organizations. Whilst I was fortunate to benefit from a management development program during the latter period of my time working for the UK part of an international development organization, back then it was a pretty rare intervention and one almost entirely the province of large charities.
The intervening 25 years have seen a seismic shift in understanding around the importance of continuing professional development, with great examples, across all sizes of organizations, of learning and development interventions bringing huge improvements to staff skills and retention. And implementing these has become easier and more cost effective as a result of the proliferation of tools and techniques for learning in the digital age. We can e-learn, watch Ted talks, take part in webinars, access mentoring through providers such as the Tony Elischer Foundation, undertake distance learning and fundraising qualifications offered by AFP, and attend a multitude of conferences both in person and online.
Of course a good training course is still very much an option: a tried and tested mechanism to take people away from their every day and into a dedicated space – both physical and mental – and for them to learn about some new techniques and approaches that can make them better fundraisers. The value of a dedicated period of time listening, discussing and trying out some new ways of thinking, is undeniable, and a good trainer will make sure it’s not a return to an old school, classroom style of education.
So, as we start 2019, what is your personal development plan looking like? And how about those of your team? If these aren’t in place, make time over the next month to sit down and review areas for professional growth. Then make a plan for how these can be addressed using a mix of different interventions, and schedule when and how you will assess the impact on both your own and your team’s effectiveness and motivation. By mixing old and new methods of learning, you’ll deliver the best outcomes for your team - and your organization.
Michelle Chambers, Director THINK Canada & Managing Director, THINK Consulting Solutions.