October 23, 2012

Ask an Expert: How to Expand Fundraising Skills

Pamela Loos, director of foundation and government relations at Philadelphia's Woodmere Art Museum, wants to learn how she can branch out into other fundraising roles.

She writes:

What books and other recommendations would you give to someone with a background in raising money from foundations who wants to learn about raising money from individuals and corporations?

Our expert:

Ronald Schiller, senior vice president for business development at Lois L. Lindauer Searches, a national executive recruiting firm that places fundraisers in senior-level jobs.

He writes:

Development is all about building mutually rewarding relationships between donors and organizations. Successful development officers also give time and attention to establishing mutually beneficial and lasting relationships with colleagues.

Your first step might be to identify and learn from those in your organization and in your wider network who are successful in raising money from individuals and corporations. Ask a major-gift or corporate- giving officer in your organization to take you along when they visit a donor. You will likely have information that allows you to make a complementary and valuable contribution to the discussion, and you will be able to observe similarities and differences between your own work and theirs.

At home and when you travel, seek out successful development officers in other organizations, taking them to lunch or meeting them in their offices to learn about what they do and how they do it. Some may become your friends and advisers for life.

Serving as a fundraising volunteer or board member of a local organization provides additional perspective. Many organizations would value your expertise in grant writing, and you would benefit from first-hand individual giving experience as a donor and peer solicitor.

Professional groups such as the Association of Fundraising Professionals offer conferences, seminars, Webinars, and other resources. They also offer a way to expand your network of advisers.

Below is a short list of recommended books. I encourage other readers to add their favorites.

The Billionaire Who Wasn't: How Chuck Feeney Made and Gave Away a Fortune, Conor O'Cleary, PublicAffairs, The Perseus Books Group

Conducting a Successful Major Gifts and Planned Giving Program: A Comprehensive Guide and Resource, Kent Dove, Alan Spears, and Thomas Herbert, part of the Dove on Fundraising Series, Jossey-Bass

Donor-Centered Fundraising, Penelope Burk, Cygnus Applied Research

Give and Take: A Candid Account of Corporate Philanthropy, Reynold Levy, Harvard Business School Press

Mega Gifts: Who Gives Them, Who Gets Them, Jerold Panas, Emerson & Church

The Millionaire Next Door, Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko, Longstreet Press

New Strategies for Educational Fundraising, Michael J. Worth, American Council on Education

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