Thinking About Training…

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Alex Comfort, CFRE

I just finished an AFP chapter meeting in which I moderated, in part, a discussion of ethics.  The best part of this was a panel on which I served that fielded ethics problems that people had faced in their actual job experience.

All three of us on the panel frequently disagreed.  Ethics is a hard subject, and there are so many variables that to come up with a definitive answer for all challenges is never possible.

But this program today also fit in with what I have been thinking about development training in general.  As an active development officer for 31 years now, I have benefited from many training sessions and learned a great deal from the many talks I have given.  But our field is so large, and now so specialized, that it is hard to know what training is the best way to become more productive.


I think I have a few general thoughts I would share:


  1. Get some good “big picture” training on the front end.  Online courses from places like Indiana University, the Fundraising Boot Camp I teach, multi-subject classes you can find, all will prepare you to get more from the narrower presentations, webinars, and training programs that dive deeper into specifics.
  2. Always “broaden your base”.  Whether it is an ethics problem, some specific information on planned giving, or any other type of challenge you are facing always reach out to an AFP colleague or other practitioner who can walk you through a situation.  Sometimes it is a mentor through AFP, or even a paid “professional coach”.  Don’t feel you need to act like you know everything right away.
  3. As you get deeper into the field, figure out what you like to do and what you don’t like to do.  The happiest development professionals do what they like to do.  Seems pretty simple, right?  But so many people who are averse to meeting strangers find themselves as miserable major gift officers when they would do better to be in annual fund work, and vice versa.  Then build training on what you love doing.
  4. Look ahead to where you want to go.  Want to be an Executive Director?  Want to head an Advancement Division?  Looking to becoming a consultant?  Start doing training toward those areas.
  5. Realize that you ALWAYS HAVE CHOICES!  Too often we feel stuck when, with a little courage and some risk, we can head in a new direction.  Again, talk it through with colleagues.
  6. Consider credentials and academic degrees which can help you.  Do your homework.  Every day more universities are coming up with new degrees and many programs are available on line.  Near us in Asheville, for example, Lenoir-Rhyne University Center for Graduate Studies of Asheville has just offered an MBA with a concentration in social entrepreneurship or non-profit leadership.  
  7. Finally, keep learning in some way or another.  If you spend an hour and just get one new idea, or one dose of enthusiasm, it is time well spent.  Ours is a difficult profession, and most people (including our bosses) have no idea what we do.  Keep growing!

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