Does your not-for-profit organization know how its fund development program is performing? I expect out of the numerous charities in Calgary, or even Canada, this would be a hard question to answer.
What most experienced fund development professionals would suggest is an evaluation of your overall fund development program. It is commonly called a Fund Development Audit or a Readiness Review – regardless of the name, they accomplish the same outcomes. The core goal of an audit is to look at your fundraising program as an internal assessment process that provides a platform for new growth and expansion or re-evaluation of current activities and their success or lack thereof. This is a 360 degree look at all things that impact the fund development program – staffing, governance, budget, revenues, systems, stewardship and policies. All of these arms of the fund development program impact the way activities are designed and executed, and if one is not where the others are, then the program suffers in a major way.
There are a collection of reasons why an organization would embark on an Audit, to name just a few:
- When a program transitions towards a capital/endowment campaign.
- When annual fund results miss their goals.
- To help educate a Board about their fund development engagement and how they can impact the program by being active versus passive.
- To raise the bar of their program by seeking higher standards of operational excellence.
- When an organization expands their program staff and need to clearly understand the roles and responsibilities.
It is widely accepted that this type of work is ideally managed by an outside consultant who can be objective and provide advice and experience in counseling the Board on what is really happening in their shop. The Board is directly involved in the audit process, usually with their involvement with the Governance section of the audit and where their gaps may be. Staff are key in the process for providing statistical program history as the numbers never lie. Some organizations occasionally have trouble digging up the history as their record-keeping may not be consistent and may not even be in a CRM or a database. This is a red flag from the get-go as organized records are key for continuity and respect for donors and their individual gifts along with their wide support for an organization. Luckily, there are many products on the market for different wallet sizes, but the bottom line is you need one.
A Fund Development Audit may be the best investment an organization can make if they have had sustained lackluster results and do not know why, other than the terrible economy! That is a cop-out and is a very convenient scapegoat, but there will be, undoubtedly, other factors at play. The economy will take most of the weight, unless an objective eye spots the program issues. Boards need to recognize the signs of trouble and then call in the experts to help shore up the program quickly before it sinks further. After an audit has been completed and presented to the Board of Directors, true strategic planning can unfold to plot the new beginning with renewed faith and trust of all involved.
Osborne Interim Management has the expertise to conduct the audit, make recommendations and then assist with the implementation of a fund development strategy. Many of our executives have served the not-for-profit sector both operationally and as Board members, so we have a high degree of empathy for the issues you face.
Derek D. Fraser, CFRE