The leaves are turning, the fashion magazines are gushing about Katie Holmes wearing plaid, and I can't find parking within a mile of the local campus. It must be back-to-school time. And I admit it, I'm jealous. Not just because I'd happily return to school anytime, permanently, but because of all the great classes they get to take. And look, even classes in fundraising!
That's right, students can sign up to take classes with titles like "Grantgetting, Contracting, and Fund Raising;" Introduction to Nonprofit Management;" "Fundraising as Ministry;" and "Fundraising in Museums." And they're on campuses from Columbia to U. Michigan to the Covenant Theological Seminary to San Francisco State.
I don't think we had fundraising classes when I was in college. Or maybe I was too occupied with aesthetic theory and Chinese philosophy to notice. But I hope today's students are taking notice, because a class in fundraising could offer them two of the things they may want most for their future: a practical skill and the power to change the world.
As Lupe Gallegos Diaz, who teaches a course on development at U.C. Berkeley, said in my book, Effective Fundraising for Nonprofits:
"At first, I put 'fundraising' in the course title, but students weren't attracted by this, not realizing that it would prepare them to make real change in their communities. So, I changed the title to 'Leadership and Community Involvement.' Once I get the students in the class, they say things like, 'Wow, we didn't know fundraising was a profession, something you can use.' I try to show them that fundraising can be both a career that utilizes their academic degree and skills, as well as a way of serving their own community."
Does the availability of these courses have any relevance for people already out there working in nonprofits? I think so. For one thing, you can look for new staff who actually have fundraising training and a demonstrated commitment to nonprofit work. For another, if your local colleges and universities offer such courses, you might make yourself available as a classroom speaker (and of course tell students how they can get involved in your nonprofit), or offer your organization up as a placement opportunity for internships.