Fundraising assessments: 3 questions

Fundraising assessments are some of the most fun (I'm not joking!) and challenging projects clients hire Sarah J Consulting to work on.

Nonprofits harness fundraising assessments--aka fundraising audits--to step back and carefully review all aspects of their Development operations. Ideally, this process will identify strengths, illuminate weaknesses, and help determine concrete steps to improve results. 

Typically, organizations call on outside consultants to conduct fundraising assessments; as experienced and objective third parties, we often act as the proverbial fresh eye. We also make sure every assessment answers three key questions:

1. What's been done already to build toward successful fundraising? We review giving data for the past several fiscal years. We look at totals from various constituents--major gifts, foundation grants, and annual fund donors, for example--and we review the activities and steps taken to secure these gifts. How many appeal letters were sent and what was the return? What kind of fundraising events were held? Did a major gift officer build or expand his/her prospect portfolio? Is online giving a notable piece of the pie?

2. What are the nonprofit's most critical and compelling funding needs? Often, orgs strive to raise money without clear funding priorities in place. By identifying 3-5 top needs and helping a nonprofit to articulate them, we focus fundraising so that donors better understand how to help in ways that match their interests.

3. What are the major challenges and opportunities to achieving your goals? This can be where a consultant plays the most important role. We do the hard work of exploring whether a particular process, activity, or staffing structure may be contributing to less than ideal fundraising results. Conversely, we help to further strengthen successful tactics.

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