Building professional practice in the advancement field

By Nazli Abrahams, Programme Director, Inyathelo

This article is also available in Inyathelo's Annual Report

"Over the long term, the aim is to facilitate the establishment of Advancement as an area of professional study in Africa, more expressly as a specialist postgraduate university qualification."

In order for South African NPOs to be sustainable, adequate human and financial resources need to be raised and maintained. This requires a skilled cadre of Advancement practitioners – where ‘Advancement’ refers to the integration, within an organisation or institution, of communication, marketing, public liaison, external relations and fundraising to drive and serve strategic thinking. There exists a critical need to professionalise the work of Advancement within the non-profit and higher education sectors, so that practitioners are equipped with the knowledge and skills to attract resources to their organisation or institution. This kind of positioning is particularly important given the clamp-down on civil society spaces and the battle for transformation at South African universities.

This has necessitated the development of an accredited and comprehensive training programme, the Inyathelo Rhodes Certified Advancement Short Course and Postgraduate Diploma.

The accredited short course provides current or aspiring professionals with the necessary skills and preparation to be leaders in the Advancement profession in South Africa and beyond.

Inyathelo started its partnership with the Rhodes University Business School in 2012 to work on the development, implementation and delivery of an accredited course. The partnership has been enormously rewarding, delivering quality accredited tertiary level training in Advancement through the short course and the pending Postgraduate Advancement Diploma. Over the long term, the aim is to facilitate the establishment of Advancement as an area of professional study in Africa, more expressly as a specialist postgraduate university qualification.

An Inyathelo-Rhodes Advancement Certificate Course took place in Cape Town during October with 17 participants from the HEI and NPO sector.

The certificate course, which has already graduated more than 70 professionals, is the first step in the development of a postgraduate diploma in Advancement and forms part of a collective effort to build and sustain higher education institutions and the non-profit sector in South Africa and on the continent, and to build professional practice in the Advancement field.

A critical factor in the preparation for the training we deliver, is a body of scholarship that is grounded in African realities and experiences, that is, ways of thinking and ways of doing Advancement that are suited to the multiple African contexts in which NPOs, institutions and universities operate. It is intended that the accredited short course set the framework for the full development of such scholarship.

Embodied in the ethos of the comprehensive accredited training offering, is Inyathelo’s belief that experience is reconstructed to match existing and changing contexts and that the relationship between thinking and learning is fundamental as it asserts the idea that no experience can have meaning without a strong element of thought. It is for this reason that the short course, as well as the postgraduate diploma, stresses our approach to and philosophy (“the way we think”) on Advancement.