Building a Core Professional Development Plan: Investing in Annual Memberships

The post "Creating a Professional Development Fund (& Why You Need One)" talked about the importance of setting aside a portion of your income each year to pay for professional development activities. Maybe one year you will want to increase your professional library and purchase several reference books, while another year you may want to attend some in-person training courses or conferences. However, another option for professional development is to purchase annual subscriptions to resources you can use all year long.

While you may not want to tie up your entire professional development budget on annual fees, there are a couple of good reasons to consider adding at least one or two annual subscriptions into the mix:

  • Ongoing access: Conferences can be informative, inspirational, and great networking opportunities but they are over in a couple of days. Additionally, there is good chance that you won't look at the handouts you received during the conference ever again (despite lugging the conference binder home, convinced that you will). All of this can add up to a conference having limited effect on your day-to-day work. However, if you subscribe to an ongoing service--which could be something as simple as an annual membership to The Chicago Manual of Style Online ($35/year) or an annual membership to a professional association such as the Association of Fundraising Professionals (annual dues range from $50-$250)--you'll have the benefit of being able to access information and an online network of colleagues for full year, whenever you want, and from wherever you are.
  • Commitment to Development: If you invest an annual subscription you will have at least one place you can go, one resource you can tap into, to develop your skills or increase your knowledge base. It doesn't have to be expensive, it may not be a resource that you use every day, but by investing in an annual service or membership you're giving yourself an option for skills development.  Moreover, because you may have paid for the service in a lump sum, you'll probably try to get your money's worth and look for opportunities to use the service/association in the coming year.

If you want to go with one annual investment for your professional development, one of the best services out there is ($25-$35/month). offers a range of online courses from how to use specific software programs to improving your time management and public speaking skills. No matter what your skill level or your job responsibilities, you are certain to find courses of interest on  Another advantage of's video database is that you can use it as an online reference guide. Each course is broken up into short segments so you can quickly locate the one tip or piece of instruction you need for the task at hand.