Fundraising qualifications – What’s the point?

Graduates at the IoF Academy graduation ceremony, November 2015

Gary Kernahan | 8 February 2016

I recently suggested to a colleague that they might find studying for the Diploma or Certificate in Fundraising very useful. This colleague is very talented and keen to develop, so I was a little surprised when they questioned me on what value the qualification would add to their future career prospects.

When answering, I said that fundraising is still a young profession and as such, the opportunity to obtain qualifications is still relatively new. I went onto explain that it is my belief that as our profession matures, and as the people who have chosen fundraising as their career rise through the ranks and fill the leadership positions, the perceived value of professional qualifications will increase, and in time they may become a pre-requisite to being a professional fundraiser.

The immediate benefit: my experience

When I completed my Diploma in Fundraising in 2012, I was already in a senior management position, and had been a professional fundraiser for eight years. Whilst studying, I learned more about fundraising streams such as direct marketing that I had never worked in. New models for strategic planning and communications strategy were introduced to me, as was a framework for ethical fundraising. I learned more about theories of motivation; more about preparing cases for support; and I truly valued the diverse opinions and debate that the other people on the course brought with them.

Fundraising guru Caryn Skinner once told me that organisations get the most value from supporting employees to study for qualifications when they are in the midst of their studies. I very much found this to be true, as I immediately took the things I learned back to work with me.

The longer term benefit: my argument

The late Tony Elischer argued that one of the biggest challenges facing our sector was fundraisers being comfortable in their jobs; doing what they know well, what they know works, and what they feel safe with. Whilst there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, Tony pointed out that it is not our job to be comfortable, and that we should be continually pushing forward. I think he has a point, and I see this as a big risk for charities in Scotland.

Many Scottish charities are small and have limited resources, which often means that fundraisers have to focus on day-to-day activities, rather than strategy and evaluation. Time is precious, and has to be channelled into opportunities that will generate the best return: long and short term. 

By studying for and obtaining one of these qualifications, you’ll be investing your time wisely. You’ll be investing in making yourself a better fundraiser in the short term, you’ll lift yourself above the day-to-day activity and look at the wider world. In so doing, you’ll be equipping yourself with the skills to be a better fundraiser, manager, and leader, in the long-term.

Be the best you can be

In answer to anyone asking 'what’s the point?' or proclaiming that they're too busy, I'd say the experience that you’ll get from earning an Institute of Fundraising qualification will make you better at what you do today, and it will enhance your prospects.

Explore the opportunities and benefits of a fundraising qualification, and start enhancing your prospects today.

Or take a look at our Diploma in Fundraising qualification, including course overview, benefits, assessment and more.

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Ewan Hastings, Waverley Care | 11 August 2016

Have to completely agree with what you say Gary. I was one of the first fundraisers to get the Certificate in Fundraising Management when it was launched back in the early 2000's.

I paid for my own way through the Certificate and it was a great investment, not only in transforming my own confidence as a fundraiser, but by the fact that the £600 personal investment in myself at the time was quickly repaid back with a £6,000 raise in salary when I moved into a fundraising management position shortly after getting the qualification (a 10x return on investment).

I was also one of the first fundraisers to get the Diploma in Fundraising Management qualification too, just after it was launched.

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