4 main ingredients for an effective fundraising assessment

We've said it before and we'll say it again: Sarah J Consulting LOVES working on fundraising assessments for nonprofit organizations! We also love sharing what we know about how to conduct these Development audits (see here and here for starters). 

Today, we'd like to talk about four main ingredients that should go into every nonprofit fundraising assessment. An experienced fundraising consultant will combine these ingredients into an in-depth, actionable report of findings and recommendations.

Here are SJC's four ingredients for conducting an effective nonprofit fundraising assessment:

1. Giving analysis. Review donation results from at least the last 2-3 fiscal years. Look at overall giving totals and at individual donations. Which donors appear to be the most generous? Which donor types need work? (For example, do you have lots of annual giving donors but hardly any foundation grants?) Have any significant donors dropped off from making gifts? Don't be afraid to slice and dice the data to illuminate areas of fundraising strength and opportunity.

2. In-depth interviews across the organization. Well-structured conversations with select donors, board members, staff, and other key constituents are a must. Their feedback lends valuable insight into how those closest to the institution perceive it and which giving priorities resonate most. Carefully planned interviews, usually facilitated by an experienced outside professional, are key to extracting the specific information you seek. 

3. Infrastructure and protocol review. Successful fundraising stems from many components that most people never see: a meticulously maintained donor database; a clear schedule and guidelines for acknowledgment letters; clearly understood funding priorities; and much more. An assessment will explore all of these unsung heroes of Development to find out which gaps need to be filled.

4. Gauging internal engagement with Development. If fundraising isn't part of a nonprofit's culture--from board members to leaders to staff across the organization--work must begin to weave it into the org's fabric. Frequently enough, I meet trustees who feel that fundraising simply is not their job, and nonprofit CEOs who believe that the responsibility for raising dollars lies exclusively with frontline Development staff. Put simply, leaders' lack of involvement with Development portends fundraisers' turnover and, of course, subpar revenue results. A fundraising audit must bring a cultural issue like this to light.

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