Monday, September 01, 2008

Places, Resources, and Ways to Learn Everything From Fundraising To Other Nonprofit Operations (Some Are Free)...

The key to successful fundraising is educating yourself: if you don't know how to, if you haven't done it in a while, and even if you're a successful professional fundraiser of thirty years. Many good resources offer excellent information for free. As with any profession, keeping up on the latest best practices will save your organization money, keep you in touch with innovations that your organization won't have to re-discover (as others already discovered it), and you'll be exposed to what donors expect, RIGHT NOW, of their benefactors. By knowing this, you can up the chances in receiving donations (including grants). It's back to school, fellow fundraisers!

This back to school post in Seeking Grant Money Today comes with this time of year. The kiddos are heading back to school, autumn is starting to appear, and there could be a chill in your organization's cash flow similar to the recently appearing frosts. Do not fret over the challenge. Improve your fundraising and increase it by arming yourself with knowledge, capability, the latest best practices, and save your organization time, money, and additional cash flow loss.

Who amongst us, no matter their experience or success levels, couldn't use: information teaching us how to conduct the fundraising methods our organization isn't currently using (perhaps we haven't started a major donors fundraising campaign before); or couldn't be brought up to speed on how to conduct a feasibility study in the cheapest most efficient methods possible (based on the latest findings in our sector); or the opportunity to share our own organization's successes and better practices findings? We professionals need to learn, keep up on the latest, share our best findings, and network with one another (Even volunteers are professional nonprofit staff when they work on behalf of any nonprofit that works towards its mission-based goals expecting to be successful). The amount of time that we invest in learning the basics, to keeping up on the latest will save our organizations' resources such as time and money.

The following are the Top Seven Professional Nonprofit Fundraising (and Grant Writing) Education Resources That The Grant Plant Recommends:

7. The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) is the preeminent professional nonprofit fundraising affiliation in the United States and it is highly respected. They provide many free resources on their website such as example documents, webinars (held online - attendees view via web connection for topics such as 'how to' classes or forum discussions to explain where donors are today), and articles describing how to conduct different fundraising methods (e.g. such as a major donors campaign).

6. The Foundation Center is an extremely reputable, respected, up to date, and helpful website for you to either learn about or keep up with. Review their Getting Started section, first. It describes what they offer and provide (for free, too). They not only offer free: resources, courses, and learning tools on their site, but they have offices all over the U.S. They provide courses on various topics (everything from grant proposal writing to advanced grant seeking) all over the United States several times a year. You can check their course schedule. Keep up on the sector via their Gain Knowledge section. Their PND Talk Message Board forum is an excellent place to post questions that may be answered often by seasoned professionals. Also, look over their Store for reputable up to date references.

5. If you live near or don't mind occasionally driving to the nearest professional nonprofit affiliation it will most likely be well worth the membership fee to join and your time to attend their classes or programs. Research in Google, look through your local phone book, ask colleagues at other nonprofits in your town, or visit the Reference Desk at your local public library and find out what affiliation is nearby for nonprofit professionals. A nonprofit professionals organization (affiliation) will not just be a great place for you to network with your counterparts in other organization also living in your region (volunteers and staffers); but it will offer you courses (everything from the basics and how to begin courses in fundraising, management, or operations); conferences; and forums where you can listen to representatives working for grantmakers who give grants in your region talk about what they are hoping to fund (causes, kinds of organizations, types of programs or items that they fund, etc.). For examples, the following professional nonprofit affiliations exist in Seattle: the Northwest Development Officers Association, the Puget Sound Grantwriters Association, and the Executive Alliance. Look over what these organizations offer their members (and nonmembers, too) to see what you could gain from such a membership.

4. Look into what your local community college offers. For instance, many community colleges (or even universities) offer community programs to the regional population so that people can take classes without having to apply to the school to attend courses. Look into whether the school offers classes in topics that you're hoping to learn more about (e.g. grant writing, fundraising, organizational management, etc.). Don't stop there, though. Once you've found a course or two that you or one of your colleagues might attend - research the course and the instructor. Are they any good? Are they recommended? Does the instructor have a lot of successes and experience in the work they're teaching?

3. Look over a list of books considered standards and the best references in American nonprofit work, today. I have hand picked each book included in the Amazon Store (the store or box is on the right side of this web page).  These books, that I selected, are standards in the professional nonprofit sector.  See that list of excellent, reputable, effective resources.  Start up organizations should be sure to look over the last in the list; Kim Klein's Chardon Press. She's written on many aspects of grassroots or start up nonprofit operations. I understand that you may not have the money to buy stacks of books. If this is your situation, jot down the titles that interest you and their authors' names and request that your local public library to purchase these books. They'll be invaluable to many organizations in your region. Sign up with the library to be notified when it comes available.

2. Volunteer with or intern with a nonprofit or consulting firm in your area who does what you need to learn about very well. Ask if you'll be able to work directly with the volunteer or staff who has the experience and knowledge that you seek. You'll be helping them in their workload, but you must benefit, too. Make sure that the organization is a reputable one, successful, and that they'll really and truly provide you with the education and real world experience that you need. Get the volunteer or intern work details, what will be expected of you, your expected outcomes, and your goals down on paper. Agree with the organization what the timeline will be and what you will learn and provide. Make sure that everyone understands the details and expectations and then you and the organization's legal representative should sign the agreement.

1. Hire a reputable professional consultant who conducts the work that you need to complete, who can either simply review your final documents (e.g. a fundraising letter, grant proposal, or feasibility study plan), consult with your organization how to do the work, or actually hire them to do the work, itself. Your local professional nonprofit affiliations (for that work, e.g grantwriters) will likely have lists of consultants who work in your geographic region. Also, you can look for good ethical professionals available across the U.S. at: Hiring any consultant is no different than hiring a staff member; be sure to interview more than one, find out what the going rate is for differing experience levels in your region, and ask for professional references AND follow up with them. Remember, too, that any consultant that you hire to teach your board how to conduct strategic planning, for instance; or grant writing; can teach your staff how to do what you're hiring them to do. If you ask to be educated during their work, you or another volunteer or staff member at your organization can eventually take over their work, maybe after doing one or two real world exercises under the consultant's direction.

Oh, and I would humbly recommend that your review this blog, Seeking Grant Money Today and the index of the topics that we've written about (or "tags") under Archives (on the left hand side of this blog). We've written about many different 'how to' or 'where do we find' lessons on various nonprofit operations and fundraising. You can learn, here, and other reputable professional blogs for free.

The time that you take to either learn or remain up to date on the latest best practices is an investment into your professional abilities AND the organization's abilities, successes, and resources.

Most, if not all of the above websites offer visitors the opportunity to sign up for a free newsletter or list serve. If you want to be kept in the professional nonprofit world's loop - sign up with the organizations who offer education in the methods or work that you want to be kept up on.

2 comments: said...

Thanks for the resources! :)

Arlene M. Spencer said...

Dear Charity Net USA,
As always, we're glad to be of help and thank you for your great resources and information, too!