Why An Audit of Your Major Donor Work?

Sometimes we can’t see the Wood for the Trees.   The Cambridge Dictionary describes this phrase as “to be unable to understand a situation clearly because you are too involved in it”.  If you are a Director of Fundraising, team leader or a Major Gifts Executive you may have developed your Major Gifts Programme recently or over a number of years with good intentions however, in spite of your best intentions, over time this may have become eroded due to many factors.

This could possibly be a change of staff, politics, reduced budget, lack of evaluation and/or a slippery slope into bad habits – which all teams can do without constant reflection on performance.  It is really essential to keep your standards high and to keep evaluating whether your programme is performing at full capacity.

This ideally should be carried out by an outside Consultant who is experienced, impartial, unable to be lobbied and can benchmark against what others are achieving.  This can give you a fresh look at what you are doing as a team and individual performances.  It can pick out the best and highlight what is being performed well and the audit can also help you understand why one of your staff is not performing well if you are unclear as to the reason.

There are many areas to look at in an audit with the purpose of ensuring your team are in tip top condition and performing at their best.  Here are just some of the subjects covered:

  • Philosophy of your Major Gifts Programme
  • Wealth Overlay of your database and how the results are used
  • Ranking of Prospect List
  • Method for Qualification of Prospects
  • How Major Donors are engaged
  • How £ goals are created for each Major Donor
  • Formulation of Plans for Major Donors
  • How plans are currently tracked for each Major Donor
  • How equipped current staff are for face to face meetings
  • How Major Donors are thanked/shown the difference they are making
  • Awareness of the programme by senior staff and the Board
  • The Case for Support and projects available for Major Donors to fund
  • Tracking and reporting income and expenditure
  • Monthly Reporting Requirements
  • Benchmarking Analysis – how does giving from managed Major Donors compare to previous years, is it moving in an upward trend?
  • Support for the programme – does the team feel supported?  Where are the gaps?
  • Programme Tracking and Management Reporting – how is this achieved?
  • Is the team sufficiently resourced?
  • Process for working with Regional staff

The purpose of an audit is to strengthen your team, increase income and give you an opportunity to manage upwards to your Directors and Board.  An audit can be a useful document for your Directorship or Board to pave the way for further investment in the Major Gifts Programme.  It will also help to identify where your team are performing well and where improvement is needed.

The teams who are willing to improve and learn are the ones who will excel.  An audit may cost a small fee but this is far outweighed by the increased income to your organisation and the improved relations with your Directors and programme staff.  I would advise having one every three years to ensure nothing slips and you are on an upward trend and winning the race.

You may say you are a consultant so you are bound to say this.   Perhaps, but then I have seen many organisations who have let their Major Gifts Programme slide and then it is a much bigger (and more expensive!) uphill task to get it back on track.

I would be interested to hear about your experience here…..

Ruth is the principal and founder of Ascent Philanthropy, author of two books and passionate about helping non-profits with their major gift programmes by offering advice for introducing a new major gift programme or enhancing the productivity of the philanthropy team

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