Fundraising Operations: Take Your Organization to the Next Level

By Mary Hackett, Vice President

It’s that time of the year again. The leaves are changing colors, the aroma of pumpkin spice is in the air and year-end giving is once again upon us.

For those development professionals in the middle of a campaign, you might be wondering what best practices you should adopt as you close out the year. For others, you might be concerned about how to maintain the year-end giving momentum into the new year. And for others still, there’s an age-old question that always comes to mind during this time each year: how do I make sure that next year I’m more prepared to tackle year-end giving and all of the work that it entails?

Well, this is exactly where fundraising operations comes into play. By focusing on enhancing and improving your fundraising operations, you will strengthen every area of your development department and make sure that you and your development team feel better prepared to handle the flurry of year-end tasks and responsibilities.

Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can take your fundraising game to the next level!

1. Start Off Strong with a Fundraising Operations Assessment

One of the first steps to strengthening your fundraising operations is by conducting a thorough analysis of your development department to better understand current operations.

A fundraising operations assessment will involve a thorough review of your major and planned giving, annual giving, corporate and foundation relations, events, prospect research, campaigns, and revenue reporting and projections, among other areas. This focused internal review will highlight competencies, opportunities for higher efficiencies and elevate ways to maximize staff resources and database utilization.

The five key assessment factors when undertaking a fundraising operations assessment are:

  • Database management
  • Reporting and analytics
  • Internal partnerships
  • Technology management
  • Policies, procedures and processes

By conducting a fundraising operations assessment, development departments can obtain a better grasp on what is and isn’t working within those five key areas and then implement changes to improve operations.

Tip! Allow for a comprehensive assessment to identify all potential improvements. Then choose and manage them in the order that makes the most sense for your organization.

2. Cleaning House (aka Managing your Database)

Now that you’ve undergone a fundraising operations assessment, it’s time to look more closely at one of the five key assessment factors: database management. This is an area that we can often dismiss or overlook, so let’s take the time to explore why this is such a critical component and key to upping your fundraising game.

If your database is a mess or everyone is entering data in different ways, we recommend writing standards for every field and module of your database. Let us know if we can help you with this!

Standards create a mini-manual for how your organization uses your database. The best part about them is that when finished, you have a document that states exactly what your perfect database looks like. It’s your roadmap to cleanup.

Your database should be a trusted destination for all things fundraising and by setting clear database standards and aligning them with best practices you ensure its trustworthiness and reliability. You’re laying the foundation for a sophisticated, thriving development department.

Tip! Allow for time to train all staff on how to properly use the database. This training will be key to ensuring consistent coding and entry practices.

3. Show Me the Data!

While database management can feel like a chore and you may struggle to see its benefits in the long run, the same can’t be said for reporting & analytics! You always want to know exactly how donors are engaging with your organization, understand their philanthropic behavior and determine how long your donors stay with you.

Tracking and analyzing data gives insight into what your current universe looks like and how you can begin to course correct if you see concerning trends.

Imagine how helpful it would be to better understand when your donors peak or at what point your donors make the transition to major donors. By having that information in hand, you develop a better understanding of your development and operations efforts and can plan accordingly.

Tip! Plan to regularly share these reports with leadership, your Board and other key stakeholders. Your strategy will be better off for it!


As development professionals, we know you’re juggling a lot, especially at the end of the year. This means that it can be easy to overlook strengthening your development and fundraising operations when you have so many balls in the air.

However, it’s important not to overlook this critical work. By taking the time to properly reinforce your fundraising infrastructure you’re setting yourself up for success in the long run and avoiding the year-end headache!

Eager to learn more about how you can take your internal operations to the next level? Check out this free webinar on demand.

Have any questions about fundraising operations? Contact us!