Here’s some tips from fundraising specialist Stephen Mally on how your team can still achieve their professional development goals.

professional development

“Your chances of winning a scholarship are very high. Conference committees and professional associations report a lack of competition for scholarships.”

Do these scenarios sound familiar?

You’ve got the ‘bug’ to learn more. You are overwhelmed by the volume of professional development opportunities which come your way from professional associations and third party suppliers in the market. Your KPIs include a requirement to attend so many professional development courses in a year. You are attempting to encourage your staff to expand their skills set and networks, but you do not have an unlimited budget. You’d like to send staff to more courses, but time is of the essence because of internal pressures to raise more money by the end of the fiscal year.

How do you accomplish your professional development goals – staff and management alike – even on a shoestring budget? There are a variety of creative ways to achieve your objectives, which include:

Attend webinars

There are an abundance of free webinars offered in the Australian fundraising sector.

Some of these webinars are offered as a membership benefit of professional associations. This means you need to join the association in order to attend the webinars free of charge. Non-members are charged a nominal fee to gain the same information.

More and more webinars are being offered free of charge since the outbreak of COVID-19 sent many of us to working from home arrangements. Supplier partners offer webinars with topics and speakers who are experts in various specialities. Webinar offerings also include international presenters offering different perspectives and learnings from afar.

Apply for scholarships for courses/conferences

Consider applying for scholarships offered by supplier partners and professional associations. Your chances of winning a scholarship are very high as conference committees and professional associations report a lack of competition for scholarships.

Deploy the train the trainer model in your organisation

Ask one staff member to attend a conference and then spread the knowledge by asking them to present the same material to their colleagues when they return to the office.

Ask professional associations or supplier partners for a multi-attendee discount

If you really want to send multiple staff to a conference or a course and cannot afford the per person fee, ask for a discount when you purchase tickets in bulk. Professional associations and suppliers want large attendance numbers. This is a win-win for both parties.

Join to gain the maximum benefits

Join professional organisations and subscribe to publications to gain the most benefits. By becoming a member you can attend courses and events at the deepest discounted pricing.


Volunteer at conferences and professional events. Those who volunteer gain the same information as those who pay to attend. Volunteerism is also a fantastic way to give back to your sector.

More professional development options

Professional development opportunities exist around every corner of the sector today. The competition for your professional development dollar has increased significantly over the last decade with the likes of Fundraising Institute Australia, Pro Bono Australia, Philanthropy Australia and other peak bodies sharing the space with F&P, CRM suppliers, and others. The offerings have been strengthened partly due to this competition.

Time poor, but information hungry?

If you or your organisation feels time poor, but you have a real desire to learn best practices and the latest trends, consider ways to take advantage of online learnings. Webinars and courses are becoming more tailored to meet the demands of the market. The market includes not only busy professionals, but parents and others who have a far less flexible schedule. Online courses are recorded and self-paced allowing for people who lead busy lives to learn when they want to and at their own pace. Recorded courses also allow for group learning in your office, allowing you to bring people together to share the learning experience.

Take charge of your professional development

As members and prospective members and potential attendees, you are driving the professional development bus. You are in charge of and responsible for your own learning destiny.

Take advantage of your memberships and engagement with organisations that provide learning opportunities.


Stephen Mally is a specialist business member of The Xfactor Collective – an Australian-first community comprising highly experienced and pre-vetted specialist businesses across 300+ areas of specialisation. The Collective makes it easier for organisation leaders to connect quickly and easily with specialist support through a sector-first helpdesk service, and also a Platform to search/connect with specialists. F&P readers can find out more here.


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