Unraveling Development: What to Read and Who to Listen to

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Attend activities hosted by AFP, Association of Fundraising Professionals. Most chapters run monthly programs and annual conferences.

Check out training offered by Third Sector New EnglandTDC, and Women in Development. Does the community foundation nearest you offer workshops or comprehensive training programs?

Read the Chronicle of Philanthropy, which reports the news in philanthropy. Then go visit the original sources. The Chronicle reports sector news, for example key findings of recent research. Then look to the original research and read deeper if it’s useful to your organization.

This column is not going to report on all of the findings of important research. I’m not going to duplicate the work of the Chronicle. Nor am I going to regurgitate all of the great blogs and books out there. However, I will remind you that these resources exist. I’ll tell you what I find particularly useful. And then I expect you to go to the source and read. That’s your job.

Here are two recommendations right now: Subscribe to The Agitator, a free daily blog that arrives in your email box. Tom Belford and Roger Craver, the Agitators themselves, report on research (their own and others). The Agitators provide insights and link you to lots of good resources.

Subscribe to Seth Godin’s blog. This, too, is a free daily blog delivered right to you. Also read marketing guru Godin’s books Tribes and Permission Marketing. I find them both useful for nonprofit fundraising and client service.

I’ve subscribed to The Nonprofit Quarterly for years. I like it because it is a strategic publication. It raises questions and makes me think. I get tired of reading tips about strategic and tactics. I want the why questions, not just the how answers.

The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University conducts research regularly. You’ll read news reports about their research in the Chronicle of Philanthropy. But visit the Center online periodically, too.

Talk with colleagues about how the information and trends you’re reading about affect your organization, your donors, and your fundraising strategies. How about starting a book group with some colleagues? Here are some authors that I recommend: Kay Sprinkel Grace, Mal Warwick, Adrian Sargeant, Ken Burnett, Ted Hart and Tom Ahern.

Review the nonprofit booklists of John Wiley & Sons Publishers and Emerson & Church. Emerson & Church have a whole series of small books (read in one hour) about boards and fundraising.

Yes, there’s tons of information out there and it’s your job to stay on top of it as best you can. As a professional, your job is to learn the documented body of knowledge. Fundraising and management and marketing/communications are not about your opinion. There’s a body of knowledge documented in books and articles and taught through continuing education and academic programs.

Do you know what fundraisers are supposed to know? Here’s the list of six core knowledge areas required for competent fundraising: prospect research; securing gifts; relationship building; volunteer involvement; management; and accountability.

Visit the Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE) website and compare your knowledge to the knowledge considered fundamental to fundraisers.

If you’re hiring a fundraiser, visit simonejoyaux.com to see a comprehensive job description. Click on Resources / Free Library / Fund Development / General Information / Job Description Chief Development Officer. Then use the CFRE Test Content Outline during the interview process.

So many resources. So little time. And it’s your job to figure it all out. Yes, indeed. Nike says it well: “Just do it.” Quit whining. Stop feeling overwhelmed. Outline your own professional development plan. Decide what you need to stay on top of to be a competent professional for your organization.

Send me an email with topics you want me to write about. Make sure you put “NPQ column” in the subject line.

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