As more and more nonprofits are stepping up training of fund raisers, they are finding low-cost yet effective ways to improve the skills of their staff members.
At Berea College, in Kentucky, for example, Bill Laramee, vice president for alumni and college relations, says a monthlong course he teaches about philanthropy helped train and recruit several fund raisers, including two development officers who now work on Berea’s annual fund. The course, consisting of daily classes, covers the philosophical underpinnings of charity and ethical issues related to fund raising.
But Mr. Laramee says he makes sure his course also includes nuts-and-bolts aspects of fund raising. Students learn how to prepare an “elevator speech,” a short pitch to persuade donors to support their cause, and they are videotaped to help them hone their message.
At the end of the course, students accompany a fund raiser on calls to and visits with affluent donors. They then do what fund raisers do: write a report summarizing the visit.
In Charlotte, N.C., and Denver, the local community foundations have helped pay for new training efforts to get under way.
In Charlotte, for example, eight senior fund raisers founded the Leadership Gift School last year. Their goal is to teach executive directors and other fund raisers how to pursue big gifts from individuals.
To get the training program off the ground, the founders got a $100,000 grant from the community foundation as well as donations from corporate sponsors, the local chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, and other donors.
To participate, charities must send both their executive director and development director. The first group of a dozen teams recently completed the eight-month program, which consisted of daylong training sessions once a month led by Karla Williams, a fund-raising consultant who is also a faculty member in the philanthropy and development master’s program at St. Mary’s University of Minnesota. Each team paid $3,500 to participate.
In Colorado, the Denver Foundation and University of Denver, along with other supporters such as the Colorado Nonprofit Association, have offered an Emerging Leaders in Development institute to mid-career fund raisers for the past four years.
Each of the 15 students accepted into the program every year pays a $350 fee and is paired with a senior fund-raising mentor for 10 months.
The course, which takes up about a dozen hours each month, culminates with the presentation of a “capstone project” related to the student’s career and selected with the help of his or her mentor. Past capstone presentations have included plans for a capital campaign, restructuring a development office, and many other topics.
What ways have you found to get training as a fund raiser—or offer instruction to people at your organization?