You Are an Expert, Own It

During the AFP International Conference (ICON) in San Antonio, TX this week, past AFP chair Anne Hale shared a story from stage which I will paraphrase here.

Imagine you go to your doctor because you’ve been having flu-like symptoms. Your doctor does an examination and says, “Yes, it’s the flu. Go home, rest and drink lots of water.” But you say to your doctor, “Thanks, but I think I can kick this with rigorous exercise and by drinking more wine.”

That would be absurd, right? After all, your doctor is the “expert” in medical matters. But this is what happens to fundraisers in our jobs EVERY SINGLE DAY. Your board member (who is not a fundraising professional) tells you that you shouldn’t solicit more than once a year. Your CEO (who is not a fundraising professional) questions why you want money to go visit donors. A program staffer (who is not a fundraising professional) rewrites entire sections of your fundraising letter.

It happens all the time. But why?

The easy answer is to say, “they just don’t get it.” But what if we fundraisers considered the role we play in this continuing story? Here are five things you can do today to help ensure that fundraising is recognized as a true profession requiring real expertise.

  1. Advocate for your ideas and share the data (there’s lots of it) about why you are recommending these strategies. Get data from other organizations in your sector about how the strategy worked for them. Peruse the most current resources at The Philanthropy Centre, the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, the Science of Philanthropy Initiative, the Lilly School of Philanthropy, and other top research institutions.
  2. Invest in your own training by attending conferences and other educational events—and don’t forget all the virtual training programs now available online.
  3. Subscribe to (and actually read) fundraising publications and share the relevant articles with others on your team.
  4. Obtain certification, such as the CFRE, ACFRE, or FAHP.
  5. And, most importantly, never apologize for asking for money. Remember, you are fueling the change our world needs and giving people an opportunity to add meaning to their lives. Tell others how proud you are to be a part of the fundraising profession.

– Kathy Swayze

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