Name one important skill you mastered the first time you tried it.
Perhaps you can find an example or two, but let’s face it – we become good at things by learning basic principles, followed by lots of practice.
Fundraising is no different. It’s a skill to be mastered. If you want your board, staff, or any group to master fundraising, you need help them learn in an organized way, then create opportunities to try out their new skills.
You need a training plan
I’m often hired to teach groups how to raise money. The classic workshop is a half-day or full-day event, devoted specifically to fundraising.
These events are useful. Participants learn, practice, and increase their comfort. They feel smarter, stronger, and better prepared. They have fun.
But when the training ends, people return to their lives. You know what happens next. They begin to backslide and some of the momentum ebbs away.
Wouldn’t it be wiser to incorporate fundraising training into a long-term, consistent training plan?
Yes, you’re the trainer
Andrea and I assembled our book, Train Your Board (and Everyone Else) to Raise Money, based on the value of ongoing training that you can facilitate.
Yes, sometimes it’s valuable to bring in an outside expert. But if you’re serious about changing culture and helping your board and staff embrace fundraising, you need to do a lot of this work internally.
The whole purpose of Train Your Board – our book, website, blog, videos, e-news, etc. – is to help you improve your training skills so you can play this important role within your organization.
When you create a training plan, you’ll fill that role more effectively.
What’s your goal?
Before you plan any training sequence, define your goal. What you are trying to accomplish?
Here are several possible training goals.
- Give confidence to the fundraising-phobic
- Involve everyone in fundraising
- Help people tell the story of your organization more effectively
- Deepen relationships with current supporters
- Provide fundraising orientation for new board members
- Prepare for an upcoming fundraising event
Depending on your goal, you’d choose a different set of training activities and sequence them accordingly.
What’s your structure?
Once determine your goals, create a training structure.
For example, imagine that you’ll dedicate 15-20 minutes at every regular board or staff meeting for a mini-fundraising training. Or perhaps you’ll schedule a special two-hour meeting three times a year specifically to improve everyone’s fundraising skills.
With your goals and structure clear, you can begin to fill in the pieces.
Design your training sessions
Start with the not-so-scary stuff.
Because fundraising can be intimidating, begin with activities that are relatively risk-free. You might start with simple small group conversations. Here are three relevant (but safe) topics we often use.
- Ask people to discuss why they care about your nonprofit and its mission
- Have people talk in small groups about why they give to charitable organizations (not just your group)
- Encourage people to discuss their favorite experience of being thanked.
Then add exercises that are progressively more challenging and sophisticated. Unless they’re fully prepared, don’t begin your sequence by teaching people how to ask for money face to face. That can come later.
This strategy – start with the less-scary stuff to build confidence and wisdom – holds true whether you’re organizing a one-day workshop or spreading your training sessions over many months.
Once people are feeling comfortable, you can move on to more complicated exercises.
A toolbox of training activities
Good luck with your design!