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As a manager, I always made sure my team knew I supported their professional development and my own. For most of my years as a professional fundraiser, I have paid for my own membership in the Association of Fundraising Professionals, as well as for conferences and other professional fees. I did this because I wanted to invest in myself.

I know some fundraising positions are not well paid, making the cost of professional memberships burdensome. Not everyone has the choice to do as I have.

But there are many other options for professional development:

  • Webinars
  • Monthly luncheon programs
  • Regional and international conferences
  • Certificate programs
  • College credit programs

There are also numerous publications, websites, podcasts, and blogs about the state of fundraising and philanthropy.

It is incumbent upon aspiring professionals to seek out this information and advocate for support from their organizations to pursue professional development.

Another way to grow is through mentorship. A mentor/mentee relationship can last a lifetime or for one project. We will encounter many people in our lifetime who are willing and even eager to help us grow professionally.

We all have our network of colleagues, friends and family. These are people we can call on when we need help and they know they can call on us. Real networking takes relationship building to a different level.

For some people, networking means collecting and distributing as many business cards as possible.

For others, it’s shaking hands with someone while looking over their shoulder to see who else is in the room.

I’m sure you’ve met both of those people.  Useful business networking is building relationships in a meaningful way. Whether we’re with colleagues or prospective donors, the important thing is to be present.

Look people in the eye, not over their shoulders.


Remember their names.

At the end of the evening, make a note on their business card of where and when you met them and why you need to follow up with them.

When we meet someone new, we may only have a few seconds to make an impression.

Let’s make sure it’s a good one.