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Maximize Your Fundraising Impact with Development Audits

In the realm of nonprofit organizations, fundraising plays a vital role in sustaining their mission and bringing about meaningful change in the world. It becomes crucial for these organizations to periodically evaluate the effectiveness of their fundraising efforts, identify areas of improvement, and uncover untapped opportunities for growth.

In order to examine the current state of an organization's fundraising initiatives, provide valuable insights into its strengths, weaknesses, and potential avenues for advancement, a fundraising audit is needed as a comprehensive assessment.

In this blog post, we will delve into the world of fundraising audits, exploring their significance, the process involved, and the value they bring to organizations of all sizes.


A development audit is a comprehensive evaluation that assesses the effectiveness of your fundraising program, determining its readiness for new initiatives. Engaging your board, staff, and volunteers, it analyzes the organization's resources and systems, pinpointing areas of excellence, areas needing improvement, and areas with potential for growth. By providing objective insights, the audit helps measure fundraising capabilities, set realistic goals, and identify opportunities for growth. It also examines how well a culture of philanthropy is embraced across the organization.

Audits are typically conducted by external consultants or experienced volunteers who offer an unbiased perspective on current efforts.


Your organization needs to undertake a development audit when it’s:

  • Actively engaged in strategic planning efforts.

  • Getting ready for a significant campaign focused on major gifts, capital, or endowment.

  • Dissatisfied with the current outcomes of the annual giving program.

  • Exploring avenues to broaden the organization's funding sources.

  • Striving to enhance Board involvement in fundraising endeavors.

  • Seeking an impartial assessment of the development program's effectiveness.

  • Contemplating potential restructuring of the development office.

  • Pursuing a sustainable funding model to ensure long-term organizational success.



1. Qualitative data analysis:

  • Review strategic plans, policies, procedures, and marketing materials to gain insights into your current position and identify areas for improvement.

  • Conduct comprehensive interviews with staff, board members, leaders, and volunteers. These conversations will shed light on the quantitative data you will collect from other sources.

2. Development systems evaluation:

  • Assess the support provided by development systems and structure to ensure they adequately support your fundraising efforts.

  • Assess whether the development department has the necessary resources and procedures in place. Identify any gaps where additional resources may be required.

  • Evaluate utilization of the donor database and assess if you are leveraging its full potential.

3. Metrics tracking and success measurement:

  • Determine if you can track the necessary metrics effectively.

  • Ensure the ability to measure success accurately.

By following these steps, you can gather valuable insights, optimize your development operations, and establish a robust framework for tracking and evaluating success.


1. Explore quantitative data:

  • Examine five years of fundraising data to identify trends.

  • Analyze the factors driving philanthropic revenue.

  • Assess the risk of overreliance on a single source of funding (If you are).

2. Evaluate development expenses:

  • Compare staff time and direct costs to philanthropic revenue.

  • Calculate the cost to raise a dollar (CRD) and return on investment (ROI).

3. Benchmark performance:

  • Compare your organization's performance to peer institutions and national trends.


  • Current fundraising strategy is revised.

  • Weaknesses or gaps in revenue generation and sustainability can be identified.

  • Other giving categories like; annual fund, special events, individual major donors, corporate, foundations, planned giving, and donor relations can be assessed.

  • Top potential major donors can be identified through interviews and wealth screening.

  • The ROI of fundraising events is analyzed , as well as events that would have greater success are suggested.

  • The organization is guided towards greater sustainability and fundraising success.

  • Board and staff can gain greater insight and confidence in the organization's financial management, as well as their role in raising funds.

  • Funders can be better informed regarding the organization's revenue potential and strategy.


Since our founding in 2016, we have conducted over twenty organization-wide development audits. In these assessments we have looked at everything from technology to culture to donor data to the philanthropic landscape that surrounds all those components. In these assessments we often find several themes that all organizations need to address. First, the culture is more of the problem than the strategy. While organizations have great ideas and mechanisms in place, no one is activating them consistently. Uninspired boards, under resourced teams and a general lack of brand or identity to the fundraising effort leads the organizations to minimal increases in revenue year to year. Secondly, we find that donors have no idea how most organizations they support are funded - and their misconceptions often lead them to keeping their gifts small or insignificant. One organization we worked with in 2018 had donors thinking they received tons of government funding when in fact, it was only 25% of their budget. By educating major donors on this, and driving the need for philanthropic support, almost half their donor base increased their giving the year after our audit and recommendations!

These trends remind us all that it is important to consistently check in and understand donors’ knowledge and experiences. They are not everything to our mission but they play an important role as key players to allow us all to serve our communities well. We recommend organizations conduct an audit, either internally or externally, every 5 years to ensure they are keeping their development program relevant, effective and inspired.

We aim to empower nonprofits and help them leverage the potential of a well-executed fundraising audit to propel their missions forward. Let us embark on this enlightening journey together and discover how your organization can unlock the secrets of successful fundraising.



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