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These days there’s a lot of talk about “future leaders” and “the next generation of fundraisers,” but what are we really doing about these future leaders? Are we setting them up for success? Are we truly nurturing their talents, and identifying their opportunities for improvement and growth? At Blakely, part of our company purpose is rooted in supporting and growing the leaders of tomorrow in our sector, and it’s something we feel strongly about.

We know that something that can seem so simple and obvious can end up being pushed to the side or into the bucket of the “goals for next year.” This is because people tend to see this as more money, more time, more resources, or just don’t know what to do. But that doesn’t have to be the case.

Here are three things you can start doing today to help grow and foster the leaders of tomorrow.

#1: Encourage extracurricular passions and talents

As many of you are now aware, the AFP Greater Toronto Speaker Discovery Series (SDS) has quickly become more successful than anyone ever dreamed. We are so proud that this is the brainchild of our very own Laura Champion. Initiatives like this take time — yes time from someone’s actual job — but look what can evolve! Laura has launched an event based solely for fundraisers with limited speaking experience the opportunity to grow their skills and provide them with exposure to speak in front of an audience.

Side note: If you haven’t read the article on the SDS in the recent publication of Advancing Philanthropy (AFP), you should! It is a perfect example of these Top 3 Actions.

#2: Allow people to speak freely and bravely

Does the idea of this scare you? If it does, it is probably a good thing. People who aren’t in leadership positions or management roles can sometimes feel their voice is not heard. We need to change this dynamic — and fast.

And yes, those people who feel unheard need to be courageous enough to speak up, and you can be a huge contributing factor to that. The best leaders create a culture where people aren’t afraid to speak up and express their opinions. As a leader, it is key to ensure you are seeking out the opinions of those who may not have as strong a voice. And be sure to recognize when they do step out of their comfort zone as for some people, it takes a lot to speak up – so if they do, please acknowledge it!

#3: Good old-fashioned professional development

We get it. Setting aside professional development budgets can be tough with limited resources as they are an investment. But think about it. Aren’t your people worth investing in? Organizations need to be doing more, where they can and with what they have. This doesn’t have to mean sending people on expensive trips to expensive conferences. Professional development can start in your office! Do you know what the professional development goals are of your team members? Do you structure mentorship opportunities where you can?

The best legacy you can leave in your career is to develop someone enough that they could take over your job! One of the greatest compliments you can receive is when someone refers to you as their mentor. And if one of their goals is outside of your capabilities, look to colleagues or other resources to assist. Leverage opportunities and people in your network.

If you think someone is interested in speaking at a conference, or more importantly has asked to — this should be encouraged and celebrated! The experience, networking, and confidence that comes from people being able to go out and learn and develop their skills is priceless.

And tap into bursaries for conferences. Every year bursaries for numerous conferences either go unused or there are only one or two people who apply. If someone wants to attend, don’t just write it off as too expensive as there may be another way!

We hope after reading this you can start to think differently when it comes to your team and their untapped potential. Perhaps the next time you feel yourself wanting to push this topic to the side, stop and ask yourself what you can do today to help develop and foster the leaders of tomorrow at your organization. Never underestimate the impact one small action in your day can make to developing and inspiring someone!