What is a Development Audit and when do you need one?

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A Development Audit is an assessment of your group’s fundraising program’s strengths and weaknesses. It provides an objective, professional report on steps needed to increase your fundraising success.

Many organizations undertake a Development Audit when they are:

• Considering a new major gifts, capital or endowment campaign
• Not satisfied with the results of their annual giving program
• Seeking to increase Board participation in fundraising efforts
• Attempting to compare their results with similar organizations
• Looking for an objective evaluation their development program and staff
• Considering diversifying their funding
• Engaged in strategic planning.

The Development Audit looks at the involvement and effectiveness of your board, staff and volunteers in fundraising. It prepares custom recommendations on how to best use your people and development budget, evaluates your development plan and systems, and examines your communications with donors and prospects.

Usually a Development Audit is performed by a consultant who can bring objectivity and wide experience to the group. The staff, while not involved directly in the evaluation, will participate in the Audit. Typical staff roles include:

• Completion of Development Audit questionnaires;
• Providing supporting documentation;
• Meeting with the consultant to clarify information and set goals for the audit.

The Board is also involved in completing questionnaires and participating in interviews with the consultant. Typically the Board Chair, Chair of the Development Committee and selected Board members will be interviewed. The consultant generally makes several visits to the organization to meet with key staff, Board and other volunteers.

A Development Audit typically looks at five areas:

The Organization’s Readiness for Fundraising

a. Organizational Structure—to whom does the Development Office report?
b. Strategic Planning—does the organization have a long range plan?
c. Fundraising Guidelines—are there gift acceptance policies in place?
d. Case for Support—is there a written organizational case for support and case statements to support various fundraising needs?

The Board’s Role in Fundraising

a. Board Composition—does the current Board have the right mix of skills, talents and connections?
b. Board Performance—is the Board actively involved in fundraising and do Board members sufficiently support the organization financially?
c. The Development Committee—is there a Development Committee? How are volunteers involved in the fundraising program?

The Development Plan

a. Is there a development plan in place with monetary goals and a calendar for each type of activity (events, direct mail, corporate and foundation appeals, individual major gifts, planned gifts, etc)?
b. How does the group’s development plan compare with successful, similar organizations?

The Role of Staff

a. Departmental Structure—is there adequate staff, doing the right jobs with
the right tools?
b. Functions of the Development Office—does the development staff have
the time and skills to perform all the functions needed to implement the plan?
c. Training & Educating Staff—is there a commitment to professionalism in
the Development office?
d. Role of the CEO in Fundraising—is the CEO involved in fundraising and
does he/she communicate regularly with the Development office?

Systems & Procedures

a. Donor Database Software—is there an adequate donor software program
in place and is staff trained to use the program?
b. Procedure Manual—are there procedures in place to receive, record and
acknowledge gifts?
c. Hardware—is there adequate hardware to support development systems
and programs?
d. Website and social media—does staff effectively use technology to improve donor
relations?

Cultivation & Stewardship

a. Prospect Research—are adequate time and resources committed to
donor/prospect research?
b. Cultivation Strategies—is there a program in place to build donor
relationships?
c. Communications—how does the organization communicate with its donors and prospects?
d. Acknowledgement—are donors thanked in a timely manner?
e. Recognition—is there adequate donor recognition?

Once the Development Audit is complete, it will provide the information needed to create and implement a strategic plan for development. A comprehensive Development Audit helps organizations build on their strengths, overcome their weaknesses and identifies the next steps for them to develop more funds.

JWA Consulting helps small and medium sized non-profits develop more resources to strengthen their services. For more than twenty-five years, we have helped groups develop effective, ethical fundraising programs that get results.

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