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A Routine Check-Up: The Value and Process of a Development Office Assessment

Revitalize and improve your fundraising efforts starting with a Development Office Assessment. 

An effective development office is never settled. To prevent stagnation, it’s important to be regularly checking up on your practices, processes, and personnel. Your large-scale questions on how to improve your fundraising efforts (“how do we raise more money??”) are often answered by starting with smaller insights. These insights reveal which settings to fine-tune, leading toward your development office’s long-term success. To do so, consider conducting a Development Office Assessment. Or for better results, employ a third party like CG&A for an external perspective and candid analysis, leading to more accurate results.

Assessments are meant to look internally rather than outwardly. Rather than looking to your community to estimate your potential for growth, an assessment looks to your team to evaluate if your organization is equipped to handle growth in the first place. However, that’s not to say your outputs/results are extraneous from this process—your outputs should be measured as part of the assessment, and what you learn will then have an impact on your outward-facing efforts. 

Three tiles with checkmarks and a hand holding a magnifying glass over a drawn target

When should an assessment be done?

An assessment can be done at any time as a simple check-up on the health of your organization. However, they become much more important when undergoing significant change or embarking into a new phase of your organization, such as a change in leadership or when considering the launch of new programs. Depending on the ease of scheduling interviews and the complexity of data, the whole assessment process may take three to six weeks to complete.

What should be covered in an assessment? 

The bulk of an assessment involves one-on-one interviews with key leadership, development staff, a key donor or two, and board members. These interviews should consist of a SWOT analysis: asking each person’s perspective on the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats of your organization. These also provide a unique opportunity to gather candid perceptions on the health, confidence, and morale of your development office. Look back on the job descriptions for each of these positions as well and see how each person’s day-to-day work compares with “what they signed up for.” Collecting hard financial data and statistics make up the other significant portion of an assessment. This data should include an analysis of giving history, unrestricted vs. restricted giving fund purposes and amounts, source categories for annual revenue, among other things. Finally, your case for support—whether the case is a collection of talking points or a designed, printed document—should be reviewed and updated, ensuring that it conveys your mission effectively and accurately. 

What goes into an assessment report?

Processing and analyzing all of this information is then a task unto itself, and should result in a report with accurate and fair summaries, as well as useful, clear action items. It is often helpful to have current benchmarks to compare and measure your organization, gaining realistic expectations of your development office. CG&A’s assessment reports include a broad overview of the organization and its mission, a financial summary, an outline of the organization’s fundraising efforts, a development staff analysis, an overall summary of our findings, and our recommendations to the organization.

Final Thoughts

If anything, the simple task of stepping back and looking at your development office from “10,000 feet” allows you to identify gaps, consider your standing, and re-engage your donor base with confidence. At CG&A, our first task as a consultant is to conduct an assessment of your organization to determine its strengths and weaknesses, and plan for how we can best serve you. Most importantly, we are seeking to ensure your development office is zeroed-in on and in full service of your mission. If you’d like to hear more about how CG&A can serve your organization through a Development Office Assessment, contact us today.


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