Today I obtained my Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) credential…
…after 17 years working in non-profit fundraising and marketing
…having reached the executive suite
…subsequent to publishing my first fundraising book
…following my election as President of my chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals
…succeeding a four-year journey speaking nationally on philanthropic and other topics.
You may wonder why I sought certification now, why I didn’t do it sooner, or why I did it all since I’ve reached a career pinnacle. My story is a testimonial to a shift in the profession – one I’m proud to be a part of.
When I entered the industry post-college nearly two decades ago, I knew no one who said, “I want a career as a fundraiser.” Everyone I knew “fell” into the profession. They may have been hired because they had connections to donors, corporate leaders, or politicians. Some came up in PR or event management and transitioned into development. Others began as board members or volunteers, sparking a passion for formal work in fundraising.
Far fewer people are “falling” into fundraising today. They are studying to become masters of their craft. I see the shift in the profession most obviously in the passion and seriousness our young professionals exhibit when I talk to them at conferences and trainings. They inspire me!
Today, there are colleges offering degrees in philanthropy. Associations are professionalizing career tracks and defining our roles and responsibilities. Colleges, consultants, and research organizations compiled years of data and study to quantify the growth and impact of philanthropy. Processes are now documented and formalized to help us be more strategic, efficient and impactful. Standards and ethics take center stage.
Even the skeptics are beginning to see fundraising as an altruistic call to civic engagement which transforms lives and communities.
To be frank, I’m a bit embarrassed I didn’t get my CFRE sooner. In my home region, few people had the CFRE compared to neighboring cities. I believe, as a region, we were a little behind, but that too is changing. In the last couple months four of us earned our CFRE.
Today I see our profession is moving in a healthy direction toward high standards of quality and practice. The CFRE is a great way to demonstrate not only that I have the experience necessary to be an executive in my profession, but I’ve put the effort in to understand the intricate details of this work. What a benefit to my non-profit and the donors I serve.
Branding is a marketing and communications concept with potential for dramatic impact on retention rates in annual fundraising.
Nationally and globally-known companies go to great lengths to establish and sustain a strong brand. Their brand is their identity, their voice, their distinct place in the market. It is their statement or promise to the customer about what they can expect from the product. Once the strategy is built, the brand image is driven to customers and potential customers through deliberate choice in words, images, colors, and all facets of integrated marketing.
Small, local or regional organizations and even non-profits have begun branding on a scale appropriate to their capabilities. Branding applied to annual fundraising looks similar. So why brand it?
One desired goal of branding is to create long-term recognition, sustainability and customer loyalty. By being who you say you are and being great at what you say you do, you begin to transform transactions into lifetime relationships.
An annual fund is a reoccurring, timed, goal-driven fundraising campaign that provides mission-supporters opportunity to make repeatable investments in the organization. By creating and implementing a strong brand strategy for annual giving, you too can transform transactional gifts into lifelong relationships with the organization.
In my upcoming book by Charity Channel Press titled Five Strategies to Increase Your Annual Fund I talk about branding as one component of a five-fold strategy that helped my colleagues and me increase annual fund revenue more than 30 percent at our organization. I share proven methods on how to uniquely apply a branding process to annual fundraising at organizations big and small.
Ultimately, branding is driving the best possible message in a thoughtful and deliberate way over a long period of time. That can mean more lifetime giving from donors for the essential mission your non-profit organization provides to the people in your community.
Pamela Say is a published author, fundraiser, and life-long student of leadership. Browse Pam's blog entries for possible conference session or keynote topics. Pam customizes training opportunities for her clients.
Read Pamela's internationally published articles at Orato.World:
Father's death leads son to advocate for firefighter cancer awareness
Father offers forgiveness to five-year-old son's killer
Kenyan journalist forcibly outed, launches Bold Network Africa
Hope Virgo fought for her life, campaigns for eating disorder support
Paxton Smith reflects on graduation speech swap, starting collge, and book deal
From racism to one race: the Jane Elliott story