“I would love to do this, but I do not have money in the budget…” Sound familiar? This phrase is all too commonplace among nonprofit executives—especially for funding nearly anything outside of that very day’s business activities. When it comes to finding the funds to cover professional development and talent management, nonprofits struggle and often shift funds away from training to cover other costs. This is a mistake. Neglecting to invest in professional development is analogous to saving money by not buying gas for the car that one needs to get to work.
Professional development is one thing that is almost universally accepted as positive for the organization, and it is an investment in the individuals who do the important work of your organization. As a research organization, we were curious—what do the numbers say when it comes to talent management and professional development in nonprofits?
By the numbers (NonprofitHR’s 2023 Talent Management Priorities Survey Results):
- 79% of organizations are prioritizing learning and development
- 63% are developing a learning and development strategy/program
- The second largest obstacle to achieving talent management priorities is not enough
dedicated financial resources (54%)
Unfortunately, development/fundraising training is not among the top three learning and development efforts that respondents will focus on in 2023 (73% DEI; 67% Leadership; 66% Supervisory Skills). Ignoring training in fundraising is a missed opportunity to strengthen your organization overall.
So what’s the solution when budgets are tight? Consider looking to those donors who have already contributed to the organization.
We know through our research that donors want to see a Return on Philanthropic Investment (ROPI). In other words, they want to make an impact on the mission of the organization and the lives of the people it serves. What better way for a donor to see the impact of their contribution(s) than by helping to shape and secure the financial future of the organization?
How do we approach these donors? Begin by asking “What would you like to accomplish with your money that would be meaningful to you?” to uncover their philanthropic passion(s). It may not be the first donor, may not be the fifth, and may not even be your twenty-fifth, but with a little tenacity you are bound to come across a donor that will say something like this: “Gee, I have not thought about that, but I would love to see this organization thrive for generations to come.”
This is your opportunity to respond, “We feel our organization would really benefit from engaging in professional development to set ourselves up for fundraising success. We have an opportunity to not only train our development team and leadership to be more efficient and effective, but also involve our board as ancillary fundraisers and better engage our volunteers. We would love to have you take part in this opportunity. This type of contribution would help our organization to grow, support more individuals, and thrive for generations to come. Is that something you would like to learn more about?”
Now, is this scenario a real-life interaction? Maybe not exactly. The purpose of this illustration is to get you thinking about how you can approach donors that have more capacity to give, are highly interested in your organization, but haven’t connected meaningfully with an existing opportunity. Asking them to contribute by investing in your team to better build the organization and serve the community might be just what they’re looking for.
Stewarding a contribution for training in fundraising might, at first glance, appear challenging. After all, there are no ribbon-cutting ceremonies or thank-you notes from scholarship recipients. However, it can be as simple as inviting the donor to attend the training and providing them with the opportunity to speak about the importance of a robust culture for philanthropy at your institution. This donor felt honored to attend fundraising training that he helped support for staff at his veterinary hospital. Having staff share their fundraising “wins”—both large and small—either in conversation or in writing with donors will deepen their philanthropic joy in making the contribution for training.
Fundraising provides your organization with fuel to do work that is vital to the communities you serve. Training all members engaged with your organization ensures there will be plenty of gas stations on the journey to achieving your vision.
For any questions about building a strong culture for philanthropy at your organization, including approaching a donor for an investment in the professional development of an organization, please reach out to Nick Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org.