Professional Development Fund: How It Helped My Career Transition

April 2, 2020

by Ashley Pedersen

I am so grateful for the MIT Spouses & Partners Connect Professional Development Fund, which gave me the opportunity to join the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) and attend a course offered by AFP earlier this year called Fundraising Fundamentals. I want to share a few of the benefits I’ve received so far.

I feel better prepared and more connected to people in the fundraising field as a result of my participation in AFP activities. Through AFP, I have increased my professional network of fundraisers working in the greater Boston area including one woman who has made the exact career transition that I am currently working toward!

I have a much clearer understanding of the different operating activities of development departments, helping me to narrow my job search and write more compelling applications. I better understand the fundraising business model and can continue to build my skills in appropriate areas.

My annual membership in AFP continues to serve me with daily emails, job listings, and discounted or free professional development opportunities. During the 2-day Fundraising Fundamentals course in February, I noticed presenters sharing some of the same best practices, which I’ve summarized below:

1. Philanthropy is personal and emotional. Individuals donate more money (78%) than foundations (18%) and corporations (5%) and research shows the primary motivators for giving include personal values (74%) and interest in the issue (57%). Tax breaks, on the other hand, are not significant motivators for giving.

2. Set goals using data. Keep prospect and donor data “clean,” update data manually to record timely and personal donor details (e.g. divorce, child goes to college), and back your decisions with data instead of feelings.

3. Match your strategy and messaging to your audience. Some donors may prefer emails while others prefer snail mail. Some donors prefer informal language while other do not. Try combining straggles to reach everyone.

4. Listen more than talk. Whenever you are meeting with a donor, you should be listening to them for 70-80% of the time. You will better understand what the donor cares about and best match their goals with your needs.

5. Engage donors in your work. Finding ways to engage people in your organization is the best way to cultivate donors. If you ask for money, you’ll get advice. If you ask for advice, you’ll get money.

6. Thank donors often. Your first thank-you should arrive within 24 hours and, for every donation, you should thank the donor three times.

Thank you again for this amazing program and for supporting spouses and partners in countless ways!