Connecting Personal Development to Donor Experience

Connecting Personal Development to Donor Experience

Gary Kernahan | 14 September 2017

Gary Kernahan and Loretta Bresciani Murray ask whether charities in Scotland are failing their donors and beneficiaries by overlooking learning and development.

Last week, we had the privilege of leading a session exploring the learning and development of Community Fundraisers in Scotland. 

At an Institute of Fundraising special interest group meeting, almost 50 fundraisers representing a diverse range of charities came together in Glasgow city centre. The session was built on the premise that busy Community Fundraisers often neglect to spend time thinking about their own personal development and future aspirations.

All bar four of the delegates were front line fundraisers with no managerial responsibilities. Our conversation over the day revealed that none of the organisations represented had a formal talent development programme and only half of the delegates reported that their organisations had training budgets.

Of the organisations that did have finances set aside for staff development, all but one had a provision of less than £250 per fundraiser. The exception was a national charity who offered a suite of courses, held in London, that fundraisers could sign up for.

Staff turnover in our sector is not a new challenge. Approximately two thirds of our delegates had changed roles and organisations within the last two years: a lack of development opportunities was the main reason for moving. 

A hugely encouraging part of the day was the clear desire of this group of fundraisers to own and drive their own learning and development. They had accepted that organisational support was going to be limited and, as a consequence, it was up to them to seek out training. 

We explored the importance of setting learning goals, of seeking feedback, of networking and finding a mentor. We encouraged the group to seek support via online forums, to volunteer, to read, watch and listen – there are some excellent blogs online and videos on YouTube.

Recruitment in a candidate-short market is difficult and almost every fundraising team will be working to deliver income growth over a set time period. Retaining the skilled fundraising staff that the organisation worked so hard to recruit is crucial to attaining that growth objective. However, very few organisations appear to have supporting talent strategies and as such could be failing their donors and beneficiaries by overlooking this increasingly important area.

Gary Kernahan and Loretta Bresciani Murray are Consultants with THINK, the leading international consultancy dedicated to not for profit fundraising. We’ve been working with charities in the UK and all over the world for more than 15 years. The THINK website – - provides a wide range of insights and information for anyone interested in changing the world.


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