Should fundraising be part of the public relations curriculum?
I chaired a roundtable discussion at the New York State Communications Association (NYSCA) Conference in Ellenville, New York this weekend titled “Not-for-Profits: Public Relations Challenges in Reaching Organizational Constituencies.” While there was a lot of good discussion on how resource-challenged not-for-profit organizations can use traditional methods and new technology to communicate effectively, one point we discussed struck me: PR professionals are constantly being called upon to help with–if not run–development (fundraising) campaigns, something we don’t usually teach and often don’t even touch upon within our syllabi.
Raising money in support of an organization requires much of the same skills that PR practitioners possess. If the purpose of fundraising is to advance the a mission by inspiring publics to take an action, then it is, by that definition, what PR people do. But we may be missing some of the more “sensitive” skills a successful fundraiser must have: knowing how to ask for money, when to ask for money, and how much money to ask for. The Association for Fundraising Professionals (AFP) has a certificate program which requires six classes over a couple of semesters to train professionals to do this. I wonder if the techniques of a successful fundraiser warrants a semester’s worth of curriculum within a PR major, or maybe it’s only important enough for a couple of lessons in class. Your thoughts?
A postscript: Special thanks to my fellow roundtable panelists Melissa Connolly, Kali Chan, Debbi Honorof, Michael Harrison, Lauren Katz and Lauren Ciuzio. They brought their brains and their thoughtful guidance to a very lively discussion, and I’m grateful for their time and talents.