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New International Advanced Diploma in Fundraising an Eye-Opening Experience

Resource Center - Foundation

By Robert P. Tomas, MInstF (Adv. Dip.), CFRE

The future of fundraising is increasingly professional. When I first entered the nonprofit sector, there were very few university courses dedicated to fundraising, and virtually all of the education one could receive was through AFP or similar organizations. Now, with certification slowly becoming more popular and a myriad of college and university courses available on- and off line, choosing the right educational path is a bit more difficult.

Another problem with fundraising knowledge is that, for the most part it’s purely experiential. While we know some tricks and tips work, we do not know why they work. This needs to change if fundraising training is to be more than a collection of anecdotes.

In the past 10 years, there has been a tremendous growth of research into fundraising and several centres of excellence have been established, including Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and the school at St. Mary’s University of Minnesota. The newest program that reaches well beyond this scope is IADF – or International Advanced Diploma in Fundraising.

The international course, jointly designed by AFP and the Institute of Fundraising (UK), is delivered by well-known professors, Adrian Sargeant and Jen Shang from the University of Plymouth. The 14-month program is a definite eye-opener. Much more than just a fundraising course, it includes crucial elements of the psychology of giving, change management and marketing—all of this based on research as recent as 2013.

Learn more about IADF

The first impression of the course was rather intimidating – after all, our class included Simone Joyaux, Andrea McManus and Robbe Healey – fundraising veterans known from their presentations at multiple conferences and their work on the board of directors of the AFP. Another intimidating factor was that the course was to be taught on the Masters Level (L7) with scoring and other requirements corresponding to that. Despite a twenty-five year break from a University environment (for me), it was not too long before our small cohort got into the “groove."

The course involves a knowledge audit, two blocks of face-to-face learning and long-distance contact with the teachers, spread over seven very specific assignments and thousands of pages of required reading. What at first appeared to be an insurmountable mountain of 600-700 hours of reading, writing and instruction, soon became a dwindling escape into the world of fascinating fundraising knowledge.

Good fundraisers usually say that the profession is a combination of art and science—the art being the instinctive soft skills of relationship building and influencing people. Through IADF I came to understand why some of my own techniques work and how to enhance them.

As fundraisers, we are frequently questioned by our CEOs or board members when using different methods. Through a process of iteration, we can arrive at “question-proof” strategies and discover our own biases and blind spots.

In the end, with our brains upturned, our senses honed and our expectations raised, we concluded the IADF with a sense that we wished it could continue for two more years, as the hunger for knowledge grew because of the learning. I have graduated with a sense of having made great progress in my fundraising ability and a renewed commitment to my profession.

Robert P. Tomas, MInstF (Adv. Dip.), CFRE and Wendy Dueck, MA, CFRE, MInstF (AdvDip) are the first Canadian graduates of IADF. Their class of 6 North American students received their Diplomas with Distinction at the 2015 International Fundraising Conference in Baltimore, MD on March 28, 2015

National Director of Philanthropy & Communications at NYO Canada, Robert Pierre Tomas is an experienced fundraiser with an almost 20 year career in the non-for-profit sector, ranging from Universities (York & Ryerson) to health organizations (Canadian Diabetes Association) to social services (YAY, Moorelands and PWA.) In a former life, Robert was a broadcaster and a producer of the classical music shows. 

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