I hear this question routinely from heads of organizations, board members, and development directors. Building capacity and encouraging long-term growth and sustainability are critical to fulfilling mission for any organization. The question then becomes, as an organization, are we poised for growth?
Three major time periods in the life of an organization present the greatest opportunity:
Change in leadership
Anticipation of an increased fundraising effort
A period of relative stability or instability
The objective of an audit is to assess development operations and provide recommendations for an increase in overall effectiveness and thereby raise more dollars. Naturally, that will mean identifying what it is that is working well in terms of fundraising but also what is causing the organization the greatest challenges.
An audit includes a historical review of data and materials to determine the overall fundraising return on investment, growth, and retention. The focus of the audit is to craft a plan and provide recommendations, rooted in best practices, that are forward looking and will allow your organization to soar. Additionally, benchmarking allows your organization to see how it is performing compared to other similar organizations and to set realistic yet ambitious goals.
Clearly, when there is a change in leadership, either executive or development, it is an opportunity to take stock and determine what the organization is doing well and what needs to be done in the future to align more consistently with achieving strategic priorities. Often this audit will pave the way to determining appropriate staffing structure and additional skill sets needed and will also offer an incoming leader an objective snapshot of historical performance and metrics by which to immediately identify areas of focus.
Also, during those times when planning is underway for an increased fundraising effort of any type—special projects, endowment, or capital campaign—an assessment affirms activities to continue while leaving room to plan for an over-and-above need. Those increased efforts typically involve more staff time and increased volunteer time as well as board focus. An audit can help get the day-to-day operations to function at higher efficiency so as to allow for the appropriate time to focus on the preparation and planning of a successful increased fundraising effort.
The last time period suggested is somewhat paradoxical. When an organization has been stable—consistent for years but perhaps not experiencing any real growth—it is an optimal time to look at development operations. Often this presents an opportunity to assess what new ideas, methods, or vehicles of fundraising can be incorporated. Conversely, when there has been a decline in growth—whether it is acquisition of donors, funds raised, or retention rates—typically the data is telling us there is a challenge. An audit will help uncover the root causes as well as recommend solutions so that the organization and stakeholders can chart a path forward.
In summary, now is the time to assess performance of development operations so that a plan for growth can be executed and the focus remains on fulfillment of mission.
— Sharon Kucia Kucia Consulting