Enterprising School Leavers

Enterprising School Leavers
Learning Brief

The Fundraising Academy (TFA)

Professionalising fundraising

Category: Enterprising School Leavers | Alignment between training for trades and work | 12 May, 2014 - 18:00


Project context

Non-profit organisations play an important role in South African civil society but unfortunately many of them may be forced to close due to bankruptcy, or they may be unable to realize their goals because they do not have the necessary resources. Despite great competition for funds, there are huge untapped resources available to non-profits. We believe that non-profits cannot access such resources because of a lack of fundraising professionals with the skills and networks necessary to obtain to fundraise, write proposals, and apply for grants.

The demand for skilled fundraisers continues to outstrip their supply. The Fundraising Academy (TFA) sees a high volume of non-profit organisations wanting to hire fundraisers. We aim to meet this need by supplying trained and equipped, professional fundraisers. We want to benefit both non-profit organisations and South African youth seeking new opportunities. Through this, more resources can be allocated to the important work non-profits are doing, and more young people can be provided with job opportunities that benefit South African society.

Project Description

The Fundraising Academy’s purpose is to train, over a four-month period, those interested in a career in fundraising. The goal is to provide people with the skills necessary to succeed as fundraisers.

TFA aims to:

  1. Teach black, young men and women how to fundraise so as to better the philanthropic world and these individuals’ employment opportunities;
  2. Increase the supply of trained fundraising professionals to meet the massive demand that exists from organisations;
  3. Develop unique, accredited fundraising training materials that can be an invaluable asset to fundraisers; and
  4. Design a program that has placement as part of the accredited course so that job creation is well managed.

TFA’s four-month course is a unique experiential one where candidates learn and practice concurrently how to be a fundraiser. After the first month of classes, the students are placed in internships in addition to continued classes. The last two months allows students to focus on their internship, working four days a week and meeting as a group one day a week to reflect on their internship and to seek guidance from each other. This provides immense benefit to both the non-profits where the students are placed – whom receive fundraising help for a small fee – and to the students themselves – who gain on-the-job training and skills, as well as a support stipend. To date, three cohorts of students have graduated from The Fundraising Academy and we are continuing to refine and solidify all elements of the course.

Accreditation and Professionalization of the Field

One of the aims of the Fundraising Academy Trust is to professionalize the field of fundraising in South Africa because it has not historically been seen as a profession. Often, NGO and non-profit employees end up in a fundraising position because it is simply added to their existing job description. Fundraising is rarely a full-time job in the NGO sector.

The SETA course will not only add to the validity of The Fundraising Academy but also to the field of fundraising. Fundraisers will be able to show that they are engaged in a field that requires formal training and a unique skill set that can be utilized in the NGO sector and beyond.

The first step in professionalizing the field is to create an accredited training course for those wishing to become fundraisers. TFA started the SETA accreditation process over a year ago. It was a long slow process but we gained official accreditation via the Services SETA in 2014. TFA is the ONLY accredited fundraising course in South Africa.

The next step involves building relationships with existing fundraisers and fundraising institutions. While we have made great strides in growing The Fundraising Academy, increasing our name recognition, and strengthening the brand, the goal of professionalizing the field also requires networking. To this end, we have sought to actively network with others in the field and we are pleased to now have over 28 ambassadors – our graduates – promoting the Academy in their respective workplaces.

The Southern Africa Institute of Fundraising (SAIF) has committed to endorsing and recommending our accredited courses. As this relationship grows, there is potential for connecting our alumni to SAIF and offering an advanced/expedited course to those who are already part of SAIF but lack formal training.

The final step involves getting NGOs to help cover the costs of fundraising training. As of a few months ago, our model involved hiring graduates of TFA as contractors to work for clients who came to TFA in search of fundraising assistance. Because the organisations that approached TFA were unwilling to pay fees that would allow us to compensate both the graduates and the staff supervising them, we have had to eliminate this option. The NGOs who most need the help are those unable to pay for fundraising assistance. With increased professionalization of the field, we hope that NGOs will begin to see the importance of hiring trained fundraisers and the need to pay them a fair wage and to help contribute toward their training.

Experience of Implementation

To date, TFA has conducted three courses. The first cohort of students began The Fundraising Academy course in September 2011 and five students completed their training in March 2012. We intentionally admitted a small first group and did not charge them a fee. This allowed us to pilot-run the programme and modify it as needed. The second course, with nine students, took place from June to November 2012. These students paid small course fee of R1,000. The third course ran from February to May 2013 and the students paid an increased fee of R1,500. The fourth and fifth cohort of students paid a substantially higher fee to take part in the accredited course.

Overcoming Implementation Challenges

The largest hurdles we face concern recruitment and retention. After a high dropout rate (50%) in the first cohort, we attempted to recruit a larger group, and younger adults who already had a better understanding of what professional fundraising in the non-profit sector entails. However, we still found that five people dropped out.

We found a greater commitment to completing assignments and activities in the third cohort as the students knew they must create a Portfolio of Evidence in order to graduate with the accredited certificate. This proved a powerful incentive and our retention rates increased. For other organizations running training courses, this can be a lesson in how to retain students – get the course accredited and admit committed individuals.

In conclusion, beyond sharing our three steps towards professionalization and discussing our implementation challenges, we would also like to share our fundraising material with non-profits who are interested. To be sent the current manual, please contact us.


Selected Testimonials and Correspondence from TFA Students

“I have always loved working with people and The Fundraising Academy advanced my skills in learning how to communicate and most importantly listen to the need of others. I now love raising funds for a cause and the satisfaction I get out of it is to know that I have helped to make a difference in others’ lives. These skills that I have learned from TFA I can now apply not just in fundraising but in whatever work I do. I also believe that these skills can also be applied in life in general.”


“My experience at The Fundraising Academy (TFA) was one that has left me more knowledgeable, passionate about my career path and more importantly more driven toward making a change in South Africa through fundraising for NGOs. …Over the past five months I have gained knowledge in a multitude of ways, within my internship at the TFA parallel to that of being at TSiBA Education.”


“I am doing really well. I have been employed permanently by the Carel Du Toit Centre at Tygerberg Hospital as a Fundraising Administrator since 1 May 2013. I love my new job and went through four extensive interviews to nail the job.... I am living proof of what you guys would like to achieve.”

Gardens, Cape Town

 (021) 461 8376


In Short

In this learning brief, the Fundraising Academy proposes three clear steps to establishing fundraising as a viable profession. This involves creating an accredited course, building relationships with existing fundraisers and fundraising institutions, and getting future employees to help pay for fundraising training.

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