What Is A Master Classs?

In the Trenches is American Philanthropic and the Center for Civil Society’s no-nonsense online master class series that invites you into the trenches of fundraising and teaches you the fundamental tactics you need to raise more money for your organization.

Led by American Philanthropic’s seasoned consultants, each two- to three-hour online immersion course focuses on a specific development topic. After reviewing key fundamentals and background information, participants have a chance to view and comment on real examples of development done well and poorly, ask questions, and share ideas. With each class, you also receive course materials to reference after the class and a one-on-one conversation with a course instructor.

Why Should I Attend?

Webinars have their place, but they’re no replacement for substantive interaction. They’re too often one-sided and canned. You can’t see one another. Interactions are restricted to chat boxes. The conversation rarely gets below the surface. Most, frankly, are just boring—or amount to pleasant background noise while you check your email.

American Philanthropic’s In the Trenches is different. The group size is limited. You see other participants. Questions, discussion, and disagreement are encouraged. We have a real conversation. We dig deep into particular questions and situations because if we’re going to talk tactics—and that’s the aim of In the Trenches—we need to get specific. Led by American Philanthropic’s seasoned consultants, these three-hour immersion courses (with a break to check your email, of course) demand your full attention and deliver real learning. They’re anything but background noise.

What Do I Get?

Each online master class is presented live via Zoom over a two- to three-hour period with built-in breaks. These interactive teaching sessions dive deep into the “why” behind each fundraising technique and demonstrate how to apply theory to practice using real-life examples. You’ll come away with learning you can apply to your work immediately. You also get a packet of materials with tools and reference materials related to each class topic, and the opportunity to schedule a one-on-one advising session with a course instructor after each class to talk through specific questions or issues.

What Does It Cost?

Master class access can be purchased on a per-class basis for $250.

Alternatively, you can buy a bundle of five classes for $1,000. Purchased class bundles are transferable within your organization, but only one person can participate in a class per registration.

A Master Class For Every Nonprofit Need

Elements of Grant Writing

As a fundraiser, you write proposals for the same reason that Willie Sutton robbed banks: because that’s where the money is. But could you be writing them better? Galvanize your grant writing with this master class on the fundamentals of writing successful proposals. With minimal abstract philosophizing and an abundance of practical wisdom, “Elements of Grant Writing” will arm you and your development staff with the tools you need to improve your grant proposals.

Acquiring, Retaining, and Upgrading Your Most Valuable Donors

A strong major gifts program is the lifeblood of many nonprofits, but many struggle to build the strong relationships and bold vision necessary for truly transformational gifts. In this master class, you’ll learn how to hone your case for support to inspire and engage major donors, how to identify and build strong relationships with current and future major gift donors, how to prepare for and make an ask, and how to navigate and negotiate objections to the invitation to give. During a portion of the class, you’ll also have a chance to hear from a major donor about the best—and worst—ways to ask for contributions.

Advancing Your Mission with a Successful Campaign

Need big bucks for your mission fast? It can be tempting to see a capital campaign as the answer—but a campaign is not something to be taken lightly. Running a successful capital campaign takes the right project, the right donor base, the right pitch, and the right people. Done well, a capital campaign can energize your donors and deepen relationships. Done poorly, it can undermine your annual fundraising efforts and exhaust your staff and volunteers. In this master class, you will learn the basics of capital campaigns and how to determine whether a campaign is right for you. 

Integrating Direct Mail and Digital Outreach

Direct mail remains a powerful and cost-effective technique for reaching and acquiring new donors that have an affinity to your organization’s mission. However, when integrated with digital outreach tactics, direct mail becomes a tool to reach and acquire even more donors. In this master class, you’ll learn how and why implementing both digital and traditional fundraising techniques can boost your development program, how to craft an integrated fundraising plan that builds cohesion across channels, how to prioritize your mail and digital efforts to build donor relationships and balance costs, and much more.

The Lost $500 Donor—Identifying, Retaining, and Upgrading Tomorrow’s Major Donors Today

Nonprofits focus most of their energy on mass scale low dollar fundraising activities and/or high dollar major and planned gifts work. But they are bleeding valuable middle-tier donors at enormous rates, squandering time and resources and missing opportunities to increase donor loyalty and nurture more major and planned giving prospects. In this master class, you’ll learn how to leverage data analysis, staff time, and scalable moves management strategies to dramatically raise retention and upgrade rates for the most valuable donors your operation is ignoring today. 

Strategic Development Planning for Your Nonprofit Organization

Meeting your fundraising goals doesn’t happen by accident. It takes consistency, intentionality, and focus. It takes saying no to distractions. In other words, it takes a development plan. Given the demonstrated unpredictability of the world around us, planning for your organization is even more important than ever. In this master class, you’ll learn the how and why of creating an achievable, actionable strategic plan that will help you to reach (or exceed) your fundraising goals.


What is included in my registration?

Registration starts with a seat in the master class, but doesn’t end there. In addition to attending the master class, you will receive:

  • training materials on the master class topic for future reference,
  • the best essays and practicalities on the master class topic from Philanthropy Daily,
  • a copy of The Forgotten Foundations of Fundraising by Jeremy Beer and Jeffrey Cain,
  • and a 30-minute one-on-one consultation with an American Philanthropic consultant at a time of your choosing following each master class.
How much does each session cost?

A bundle of five classes is available for $1,000. Purchased class bundles are transferable within your organization, but only one person can participate in a class per registration.

How many people will be in the class?

Each class will have no more than 20 participants. We want to keep the classes as intimate as possible to allow time for plenty of discussion and Q&A.

How will the class be conducted?

The class will be conducted over video conference. Participants will receive a private link and password to join the video conference prior to the master class.

Who is the ideal participant?

The ideal participant is a nonprofit development leader with several years of fundraising experience. While most master classes include some background introductory material on the given subject, they assume a basic level of familiarity with the subject at hand and are designed to help those seeking to further develop their skills.

Do you have a waiting list?

Yes. Each session has a waiting list. If a registrant can’t make a session, we notify the first person on the waiting list. The waiting list for each class is first-come, first-served.

Do current clients receive a discount?

Yes. If you’re a current client, please contact us for a special discount code.

Will participants receive CFRE credit for participating?

No! We would post our reasoning here, but it’s lengthy. Feel free to ask—but do so at your own risk!