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Has Your Nonprofit Ever Conducted a Development Audit?

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During tax season, when you use the word “audit” you may think of a CPA spending several days combing through your financial paperwork and records.

What I want to talk about is nothing like that but yet it is quite similar in many ways.

Understanding and Enhancing Your Development Audit

A development audit is an assessment of your fundraising program and your readiness to embark on new development ventures. It involves your board, staff and volunteers throughout the process and ultimately offers recommendations on how to best use your resources available to the organization. It evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of your systems, including your fundraising software. The development audit report will also offer suggestions to help improve donor communications and stewardship.

The first question you may want to ask yourself if this: “Why would we want to undertake a development audit?

Our answer is simple, really:

  • Preparing for a major gifts, capital or endowment campaign
  • Not satisfied with the results of current annual giving program
  • Looking for increased Board participation in fundraising efforts
  • Seeking an objective evaluation of development program
  • Trying to diversify their funding streams
  • Engaged in the strategic planning process
  • Looking at restructuring the development office
  • On quest for a sustainable funding model for the longitude for the organization

So who should be involved in the development audit? The CEO/ED, and lead development staff will directly be involved. Board members, and other lead staff will indirectly participate. But let’s say you work for a small nonprofit, then it’s all hands-on deck and everyone is directly involved. Many times, a nonprofit brings in a consultant to execute the audit (to provide a more objective outlook of the program). When I started with any new organization as their full-time development person, I always completed a small version internally for my own better understanding of the organization and its fundraising.

There are four activities to the development audit:

  1. Set goals for the audit (what do you want to learn about the development functions of the organization and why)
  2. Development Audit questionnaire to use with staff and board
  3. Review of supporting internal and external documentation used
  4. Develop an action plan for development addressing the areas needing improvement

Ultimately, the development plan will help the organization build on its strengths, overcome its weaknesses and address opportunities for future growth. And just a few final thoughts: do the audit every few years (staff and board members change), and all staff/board should be involved in development in one way or another.

If you would like to speak to us about helping you with your organization’s development audit, please let us know. You can contact us at and we always have time for a phone call.

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  • Jason

    This is a wonderful idea. I'll definitely be sharing this!
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