Learning Never Stops

Prospect development professionals are not born, but made. Learning from hands-on experience in the field can lead to great success, but standard forms of education, such as formal classes and certificate programs (many available online), offer both budding and seasoned prospect development professionals chances to explore routes and methods they may have never otherwise discovered. Here are some of the educational opportunities currently offered that could benefit you and your colleagues.


What it is: Rice University offers more than a dozen courses on fundraising, about half of which relate to fundraising operations.

Where it is: Houston, Texas

What it’s known for: The university boasts four different certificate programs, including a Fundraising Operations Certificate, which features interactive online courses that include exercises, discussions and worksheets to solidify your knowledge.

How it works: In order to obtain the certificate, one must complete all six fundraising operations courses and a capstone course. A discount is offered for APRA members.

Who would benefit: Professionals who work in operations roles for nonprofit organizations. P.S. – APRA members receive a discount.


What it is: The Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy is the world’s first school dedicated solely to the study and teaching of philanthropy. The school offers a comprehensive approach to philanthropy through its academic, research and international programs and through The Fund Raising School, Lake Institute on Faith & Giving and the Women’s Philanthropy Institute.

Where it is: Indianapolis, Indiana (Certificates can be completed online.)

What it’s known for: Providing successful, ethical fundraising training through The Fund Raising School. Offering for-credit bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. academic degrees and certificates.

How it works: The Fund Raising School offers fundraising professional development through 17 distinct courses ranging in length from one to five days. A Certificate in Fund Raising Management can be earned with four core courses, and a Certificate in Nonprofit Leadership can also be earned with four courses. Prospect researches might especially benefit from courses such as Principles and Techniques of Fundraising, Developing Major Gifts, Proposal Writing and Grant Management, and Developing Annual Sustainability, as well as courses in planned giving and engaging women as donors. The school also offers for-credit academic programs, including a graduate certificate and bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. degrees in Philanthropic Studies.

Who would benefit: People seeking online options for professional development and/or for-credit courses, as well as those who want in-person, interactive instruction. Those who wish to advance their knowledge, skills and/or careers, and gain additional credentials, whether through professional development opportunities or for-credit academic certificates and degrees.

What people are saying: “I benefitted immensely from the program and cannot think of a better investment for those who are serious about philanthropy.” – Erdal Yildirim, managing director, Vehbi Koc Foundation, Executive Master’s graduate, 2015


What it is: A member-based organization that is open to anyone who engages in professional fundraising activities.

Where it is: Portland, Oregon

What it’s known for: Willamette Valley offers a Professional Certificate in Nonprofit Fundraising, which includes a course in Donor Data Management Basics, in which the objectives are to “understand the vital role the ‘back office’ plays in fundraising success,” “learn best practices for managing donor data” and “learn best practices for identifying, researching and managing major gift prospects.”

How it works: Over the course of nine months, participants take three 10-week courses that meet weekly to develop the skills and knowledge necessary to work in nonprofit development. It ends with a 10-week practicum performing a Development Audit at a local nonprofit and the completion of a portfolio illustrating work completed.

Who would benefit: Prospect developers interested in a program with a sample prospect portfolio.


What it is: A university that offers a comprehensive range of majors in 11 nationally and internationally recognized colleges and schools.

Where it is: Milwaukee

What it’s known for: Marquette offers a Master of Science Program, in which students may opt for the big data analytics specialization, which features course work related to trends in data management, parallelism and data analysis techniques used for business applications; this would be of particular interest to prospect developers.

How it works: Students devote 18 credit hours to the specialization.

Who would benefit: Prospect development professionals serious about advancing their technological knowledge.

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