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Why Fundamentals

The Development Bermuda Triangle

If you have ever been in one of my classes, institutes, or workshops you know that I stress development fundamentals. It feels like I am showing my age when I get a little frustrated with all of the seminar and workshop titles that are so "trendy" and enticing. It seems everyone wants something new or on the cutting edge. Do not get me wrong, I love the research and trends and how we must always keep learning. But it seems those who put on the conferences and training are less interested in teaching the fundamentals of development and stewardship. It seems no one wants to go to a seminar that has "intro", "fundamentals", or "basics" in the title. You may say this is marketing 101, you have to make the title enticing! Yes, but it goes deeper than that. I believe our profession of stewardship and development is still a new one, as professions go. Our body of research, books, and degree programs is still limited and in the infant stages as professional requirements go. And even more importantly, as there are no degree programs, we must continually have fundamental courses available for those new to the field. Here are some reasons to consider development fundamentals in your training choices:

  1. Stewardship fundamentals are not taught in the church or higher education. So the only places to find the basics of biblical stewardship are at parachurch training conferences.
  2. Development fundamentals are needed for every development officer serving a nonprofit. If you are running a development strategy, you must know more than just that strategy. In other words, knowing just about direct mail is not enough. You must know why people give, how to connect them to your cause, how to create the case for support that the direct mail is based upon, etc.
  3. In order to grow and improve as a development professional you must have a strong foundation of development fundamentals. Learning is essential in development. But can you truly understand where social media fits in a comprehensive development program if you have not studied the foundations of development?
  4. Many of our development team members come from other professionals and from various degree backgrounds. The intro and fundamentals courses are needed to create a baseline of best practices to insure our team members understand the foundational aspects of stewardship and development.
  5. In our current youngest generation lies our hope for the future of nonprofits, giving, and stewardship. If they only learn that social media is the answer to all of our development issues, we are in deep trouble. I know that many teach that we must change and be ready to adapt to the new world of giving. But research does not bear this out. Giving is still predominately from the Builders and Boomers who still give through traditional strategies. The Busters and Millennials are important and we must create new connection strategies with them. But all of these new strategies must be based on the fundamentals of good development.

OK, that's what I think. Let me know what you think. Two other points to note. I am teaching the Intro to Development Course at the Christian NonProfit Leadership Academy in September. For more information go to And, I am a contributing author to a brand new book that covers the fundamentals. In The Trenches, YOU and YOUR Nonprofit. You can find it at (link) Thanks and I hope you get some summer rest!

Dr. John R. Frank, CFRE, CSP