How I use SOFII – to take advantage of coming second
By Margaux Smith
A new fundraiser explains how through SOFII she learns from the wisdom and experience of other more seasoned fundraisers, maybe even from their mistakes as well.
Well, relatively. And I’ve only really just begun my career in the world of fundraising. But I do think I’m a lot further along in my learning than someone would have been in my position 20 or 30 years ago – and it’s because I got to come second.
Fundraising as the profession we now know is still relatively new. In fact, many people still don’t know it exists (or have a very twisted perception of what we do). And during the early decades, those who came first, those who ‘fell’ into the job, those who tested and retested, who wrote books on best practice and who, basically, pioneered this field have paved a much smoother road for the next generation of fundraisers. So I feel a responsibility to continue where they left off, pushing the envelope as they did, as we take things to the next level.
You see, I was fortunate enough to be able to spend every day for a year in the intensive postgraduate fundraising programme at Toronto’s Humber College in Canada. I am so aware of how lucky I really was to have this opportunity because I know that for the fundraisers who came before me there were no fundraising degrees.
During that year, not only were best practice studies crammed into our brains on an hourly basis, we got access to many of the best minds in the business. The programme was taught by seasoned professionals and guest speakers from the industry came in a few times each week to share their knowledge. Each project used actual charities as clients to ensure we had as much real world contact as possible. And on top of that, we were introduced to the conference experience where the best of the best meet to share ideas, insights, and tips.
It really was like getting thrown in the deep end, but isn’t that the best way to learn how to swim? These opportunities are only just becoming available to people entering fundraising and they will definitely change the way the sector grows.
Because by getting through the basics in a much shorter time, we’re setting ourselves up for a much longer career of going beyond the basics – and that’s where the change happens.
One of the most important things we learned in the programme was the importance of continual learning. Fundraising is always changing so it’s our job to keep up (and try to stay ahead!) But you don’t need a formal fundraising education to accelerate your learning – thanks to the Internet.
It was during my first month as a fundraising student that I was introduced to SOFII, this wonderful online reference catalogue that is available to everyone, no matter where in the world you may find yourself. And with the incredible breadth of blogs and articles being shared all over the Web, communicating and collaborating with other fundraisers isn’t quite the challenge I’m sure it was many years ago.
By keeping up to date with the best of the best, we’re able to take the learning of others and apply it to our work without having to do the trial and error ourselves, to a certain extent (we still know to test!). Fundraisers can now share more easily than ever before, building on the experience and learning of others. And this is what’s going to make this sector even better – I’m excited to be a part of that! Honestly, I think we all are.
Of course, having this knowledge available does not mean that we’ll know everything. We can never under value experience. But we should always be learning from and applying the experiences – good and bad – of those who’ve come before. And, thanks to sites like SOFII, we can.
So here’s a big THANK YOU to everyone who came first and to those who now share, teach, listen, and continue to make this one of the greatest professional communities in the world.
I’m proud beyond all reason to be joining you.