Things can change fast in the fundraising world – think Covid and the impact it had on events and digitisation – but even when there isn’t a crisis hastening shifts in practice, there are always developments to keep up with.
So, with the skillsets fundraisers require at all stages of their careers also changing as a result, we ask some of the sector’s education and learning providers what today’s fundraisers – experienced and aspiring – want, how this has changed over the years, and how they ensure their courses continue to meet requirements.
Read on for their insights.
Professor Adrian Sargeant, Co-founder and Co-director, Institute for Sustainable Philanthropy:
“Participants are now concerned more than ever with value for money. In other words, am I learning ideas and principles that I can actually put into practice and make a genuine difference today. I think course providers are being increasingly held accountable for the value that they deliver and that must be a good thing. It challenges us to distil and synthesise knowledge from a wide range of fields (such as psychology, social psychology, sociology, economics and marketing/business administration) that could be making a difference in fundraising and then helping people apply it.
“When I first started teaching fundraising some 30 years ago – there wasn’t really a “body of knowledge” that one might reasonably expect a fundraiser to know. As a consequence, fundraising education was very simplistic and based largely on business practices and ideas. Now, the better programmes have collated and stewarded a distinct body of knowledge that fundraisers can be exposed to as they develop through the profession. It has been exciting to see this all slot into place.
“Just 10 years ago many fundraisers eschewed fundraising education for business education because somehow it was held to be “better and smarter.” We would see fundraisers interested in direct response, for example, take classes from the Institute of Direct Marketing rather than the Institute of Fundraising. Now, I think people are focusing more on classes from bodies that specialise in fundraising education. And they’ll be glad that they did, because these bodies have massively more to offer – and a profession deserves its own academy and specialist course providers.”
Dr Beth Breeze, Director of the Centre for Philanthropy, University of Kent:
“I think people often sign up for the MA Philanthropic Studies with an idea in mind of what they are most keen to learn such as the latest research on major donors, or working with volunteers, or insights into philanthropy advising. The course meets those hopes, but it also introduces students to many other topics that become passions for some, such as the history of nonprofit action, the role of religion, or how philanthropy differs across the world. Every year one or two students enjoy undertaking a piece of original research for the dissertation element so much that they go on to do a PhD with us.
“All of the teaching team at Kent have extensive practitioner experience, and we are lucky to also have many guest lecturers who continue to hold senior roles in the nonprofit world. Our closeness to practice means that we can fulfil our mission of being a bridge between the worlds of academia and practice, and our goal of advancing the understanding and practice of philanthropy in all its manifestations.”
Ben Wittenberg, Director of Development and Delivery, Directory of Social Change (DSC)
“Because of the huge range of support we have, there’s no one type of fundraiser that comes to DSC. A lot of new (and accidental!) fundraisers come to us for our introductory courses, but we also do a lot of advanced training with more established and specialised fundraising teams.
“Increasingly we’re providing more tailored in-house support for charities looking to review their fundraising strategies in light of the challenges of the last couple of years. This is one area where DSC really excels, as we’re able to draw on skills and expertise we have in other areas of our organisation. Our policy, research, publications and training teams are constantly sharing expertise and knowledge to make sure our help is as relevant and up-to date as can be, as well as being delivered within the wider context of what’s going on in the fundraising – and wider world!”
Ashley Gatewood, Communications and Marketing Director, CFRE International
“With CFRE, periodically, we perform a Job Task Analysis (JTA) to ensure our exam continues to align with the work fundraising professionals perform day-to-day.
“We completed our most recent JTA in the first half of 2022. It uncovered that the types of work fundraisers currently perform had not changed greatly since the prior JTA in 2015. The findings are notable because they indicate the core skills required for fundraising success have not altered, even with the pandemic.
“Nearly 50% of the CFRE exam questions address Securing the Gift and Relationship Building. The 2022 JTA indicated that those two areas continue to be central to today’s fundraising professional’s success.”
Clare Aarons, Training Manager, NCVO
“Our most popular courses are charity trustee, volunteer and people management courses but we have seen a rise in finance and compliance training.
“We use continual feedback from learners and our wider member events, trusted suppliers, policy and consultancy work to ensure that our training is current and applicable to the sector. 96% of learners are satisfied or more than satisfied with the training received and 91% would recommend NCVO training courses to a colleague.”