Back to school – what’s your learning plan for the year?

*Updated August 2019*

Here we are already, in the waning days of August.

I can’t believe how fast the past months have flown by. It seems I was just talking about how to keep your fundraising on track in the lazy, hazy days of summer, and now it's nearly over!

September is on the horizon, which means it’s the perfect time to think about your personal and professional goals for the year.

I think there's one thing that sets the best fundraisers apart from the rest – and that’s embracing the idea of being a lifelong learner.

So what do you still need to learn, and how are you going to do it?

Here are three things to think about – including my list of the top bursaries and scholarships for fundraisers.

1. You’re never too old for a mentor

Many years ago, a young fundraiser I was mentoring convinced my skeptical self to get on social media.

She encouraged me, coached me, and challenged me to get over myself and get online.

Over 10,000 tweets, videos, and blog posts later (yikes!), here we are…

That life changing experience taught me that mentorship always goes both ways.

If you are a senior leader in our sector, are you actively mentoring younger/newer fundraisers? And are you open to the fact that you may learn a thing or two in the process?

And for those new to fundraising, what can you bring to a mentoring relationship?

2. What’s your learning plan for the year?

Are you intending to learn more about a particular area of fundraising, or to further develop your leadership skills?

Setting yourself some specific learning goals can be very powerful.

As an entrepreneur, my plan for this year is to become more savvy about how to manage my business finances.

In addition to continuing to build on my fundraising skills (which you need to continue to do no matter how long you’ve been a fundraiser), it’s meant workshops and reading on taxes and managing business expenses.

Yes, it sounds like a snoozefest to me too! But that’s another important reason to set yourself a learning plan – so you can be intentional about pushing outside of your comfort zone.

If you always gravitate towards major gift sessions at your local conference, why not mix it up a bit and see what’s new in the world of digital marketing?

You never know what great ideas can be sparked by learning something new – and you’ll develop a better appreciation for the work done by your direct marketing colleagues.

3. Take advantage of plentiful bursaries and scholarships

Even if you have a tight professional development budget, there are lots of opportunities to attend conferences, or even design your own professional development plan, with the support of scholarships and bursaries.

Here are a few that are currently on my radar:

  • The Association of Fundraising Professionals offers numerous scholarship and bursaries, both locally and nationally. Right now, fundraisers in Canada can apply for up to $1,000 for professional development expenses from the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy – Canada. The next deadline is September 13.

  • Fundraising Everywhere is brand new virtual fundraising conference that's accessible for everyone - €45 or about $50 USD for over 12 hours of live and downloadable fundraising training and material (and, if your organisation has an income of less than €100,000 per year, you can join for free!)

  • NEW: The AFP Greater Toronto Chapter just announced 5 bursaries for AFP Congress, the largest conference on fundraising in Canada. Deadline to apply is September 27.

Have I missed any good scholarship or bursary resources you’d like to share with your peers? I’d love to hear from international readers as well, if you have any leads I may not be familiar with. Leave a comment below, and I will be sure to add your suggestion to this list.

Emma Lewzey, CFRE is an award-winning fundraising expert with 20+ years experience raising millions of dollars across the arts, education, health and human services sectors. If you want to raise more 5, 6 and even 7-figure donations your non-profit, you can download Emma’s free Blueprint for Major Gift Success, and learn the 4 crucial steps to raising big gifts (at any size shop!)

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