The Organizational Development Audit PDF Print E-mail

The Development Audit is a low-cost strategy to assess the effectiveness of the development function at a given organization, and to determine exactly what options are appropriate for increasing the effectiveness of the development operation, both for annual giving programs and for possible capital projects. There are several basic elements that should be part of the audit strategy to maximize its relevance:

  1. Time is spent with the chief development officer to gain first-hand perspective on the institutional development function. We examine the development office annual business plan (or its equivalent),  as well as the computer operations, the prospect research system, the donor files, and donor presentation literature.
    NOTE: if there is no "development office" per se at the organization, we can examine all of these identified functions while talking with the person in charge of the development data management system.
  2. The organizational president or CEO is involved in the audit, through an extended conversation about institutional mission, annual and capital goals, staff and volunteer strengths, and the effectiveness of the Board of Directors.
  3. Three to five senior administrators (e.g., financial officer, program directors) are included in the interview process, all those persons who have insight and impact on financial development responsibilities, and who have contact with corporate and community leaders.
  4. At least two trustees are identified by the President and are scheduled for an interview, usually the Chair of the Board, and the Chair of the development committee. One or two others may be included if a capital campaign is anticipated, those who would be counted on for specific financial and volunteer assistance.
  5. There may be a need to speak with several additional staff who interact with the major public constituencies, such as the special events director, the public information officer, the community services director, the volunteer coordinator, and persons who direct special programs like business / industry liaison and/or business training institutes.
  6. All members of the financial development team are involved. This can be arranged as a group or through one-on-one interviews, depending on size of the operation.

There is considerable flexibility in the on-site approach because the distinctive characteristics of the organization provide the dynamic for the work. It should be noted that the Development Audit can be part of a larger capital campaign feasibility study (which would involve extensive interviews with community and trustee leadership over a six to ten week period), or it can be a "stand-alone" project with its own value and outcomes. In either case, it is important to see that the Development Audit is a "first step" and is therefore internally oriented.

If the Development Audit is contracted during a period of leadership transition, the entire focus of the study can be an examination of the organization's capability to raise external funds. It is always a good idea to engage us to conduct this Audit prior to hiring the organization's first development officer. No one outside the organizational community is contacted. All interviews are conducted on-site (unless it is more convenient to see the trustees elsewhere), and all of the staff conversations are telescoped into an intensive three-day site visit.

As in other audit projects, interviews are guided by a directed interview instrument, and the comments provided by the subjects are confidential. No one is quoted by name (although some quotes may be presented by category in the final report). It is essential that the audit be conducted by a trained professional from outside the organization, both to maintain confidentiality and to encourage candor in comments.

When Should an Audit Be Conducted?

Anytime during the fiscal year is fine, but it is particularly important if the organization is preparing for a credentialing visit, or if an external management firm is assisting with agency-wide re-organization, or if an organization is contemplating establishing a nonprofit foundation. It is also helpful for such an audit to be mandated by a president prior to hiring a new chief development officer.

What Are Some Possible Benefits and Outcomes?

  • the audit permits the president and the chief development officer to "get a handle" on the complexities and potential of the development function through a fresh perspective from a trained outsider with extensive development experience.
  • the audit permits the chief development officer to establish priorities and to gain perspective on the strengths and weaknesses of the current operation.
  • the audit interviews with key trustees and organizational personnel raise the development function to a higher profile internally, and signifies to everyone across the organization that the function has the priority attention of the president.
  • the audit defines key processes which are distinctive to the organization, which may then be nurtured to strengthen the development function, and which help to "position" the development office relative to other organizational priorities.

How Long Does the Development Audit Take?

Under normal circumstances, the audit is conducted by two experienced professionals, one of whom comes for a three day intensive site visit. If the organization is small (not complex) one professional can conduct the audit. Key interviews are arranged ahead of time on a schedule that is part of the work plan. The Audit Report is usually ready within ten days to two weeks following the visit.

What Does the Development Audit Cost?

Our basic fee for an Organization Development Audit is $9,500, plus travel and accommodations for the on-site visit. However, this could easily vary depending on (a) the size of your organization's development department, (b) the scope of your organization's services, and (c) whether your organization is part of a regional or national entity. The Audit fee covers the professional time on-site and report preparation and presentation.

What Are the Follow-Up Costs and Obligations?

None, although the recommendations in the Final Report may, to the extent that these are feasible and have merit, lead to additional initiatives, either by the president or the chief development officer, with or without consultant assistance.

Who Will be Conducting the Development Audit?

CommunityNexus Consulting Partner in the National Capital Office, E. Maynard Moore, PhD, likely will be the supervisor, and will write the Report with Recommendations. Consulting Associates within the firm may also   be involved, one of whom could well be the individual conducting the audit on-site and drafting the report. Associates in the firm will be available as necessary to review the report and add perspective on organization development recommendations. Dr. Moore has more than two decades experience in institutional advancement, and has conducted more than twenty campaign and development audits since 1984. Each     of our Associates has an extensive background in nonprofit organizational management and financial development, having served for years in consulting roles for dozens of government agencies and nonprofit organizations.

What are the Next Steps?

A personal one-hour consultation is the appropriate next step. You may respond by e-mail or by telephone, and establish a date and time when we can visit with you for an exploratory conversation. There is no cost and no obligation for this initial one-hour consultation. If you have other questions, please feel free to contact us.