Fundraising Readiness: How Does Your Organization Stack Up?


Hastily patching together a fundraising scheme to deal with some impending fiscal crisis is an all-too-common approach to an all-too-common problem.

Unfortunately, however, donors don't write big checks just because your organization finds itself in a bind.

More probably, they'll wonder how you got in this fix in the first place. Poor management? Bad business practices? Ineptitude?

That's why the best place to start building a successful fundraising plan is from a position of strength, not desperation. Just as individuals should have a physical exam every now and then, organizations too need a regular check- up. The "Organizational Assets & Liabilities Checklist" on the following page is a simple tool to help accomplish that. It's an exercise you should perform before embarking on a full-scale fundraising campaign.

Start by establishing an ad hoc organizational assessment team that includes leadership from both staff and board. Make sure administrative, financial, and program people are included so that all sectors of the organization have some investment in the effort. Together, spend time going over the checklist and filling it out.

The simple format calls for yes-or-no answers, but don't worry if you occasionally find yourself somewhere in the middle (the dreaded "sort of" column). That's okay; your answers will still point out areas that need attention.

After completing the checklist, you should have a pretty good picture of the organization's general health and business practices. This information can be used to guide your planning efforts.

It's a first step toward maximizing strengths and remedying weaknesses--and making yourselves more attractive to prospective donors.

Organizational Assets & Liabilities Checklist

Finances

Do you have an annual budget, approved and monitored by the board, which includes all program and management expenses and all sources and uses of funds?

Yes No

Does your agency prepare monthly financial statements which compare

actual revenues and expenses to the approved budget?

Yes No

Does your agency follow accounting practices which conform to standard

practices?

Yes No

Is an independent audit or review of the agency's financial condition conducted annually?

Yes No

Is a written statement of the organization's financial position (i.e., a financial statement) available to potential funders and donors?

Yes No

Can you identify which programs are running at a surplus or loss and why

Yes No

Can you identify your primary funding sources and whether or not they are secure for the next few years?

Yes No

Do you differentiate between restricted and unrestricted income

Yes No

Are you running a deficit?

Yes No

If you have a deficit, do you have a plan to eliminate it within the next fiscal year?

Yes No

Do you have a financial surplus?

Yes No

If you have a surplus, is it unrestricted money and is it repeatable?

Yes No

Do you receive more than 30% of your operating budget from one source?

Yes No

If yes, is the money unrestricted?

Yes No

If yes, is this funding renewable over the mid- to long-term?

Yes No

Personnel

Do you have an adequate number of active board members?

Yes No

Do you have board members who are recognized leaders in the community?

Yes No

Does the board provide clear leadership within the organization?

Yes No

Does the board participate in fundraising?

Yes No

Do board members have relationships that can help leverage additional

resources for the organization?

q Yes q No

Is the board stable? (e.g., is there orderly turnover of board members, with

adequate training of new board members?)

Yes No

Do you have a stable volunteer base?

Yes No

Is there a system for recruiting, training, and recognizing volunteers?

Yes No

Do you effectively match the skills and interests of volunteers with the work to be done?

Yes No

Are your volunteers trained to be effective "ambassadors" for your agency?

Yes No

Do volunteers have relationships that can help leverage additional resources for the organization?

Yes No

Can volunteers be used more effectively to meet the personnel needs of your organization? (e.g., if staff has been cut, can volunteers fill part or all of the gap?)

Yes No

Do you have adequate staff to implement current programs?

Yes No

Do you have adequate administrative and support staff?

Yes No

Do you have adequate fundraising staff?

Yes No

Is there staff leadership that works effectively with the board to implement goals and objectives?

Yes No

Do you have dynamic program staff that could assist in fundraising (as motivators, recruiters, speakers)?

Yes No

Credibility

Do you have documented evidence of community support via:

• community leaders on board of directors?

Yes No

• receive financial contributions from individuals?

Yes No

• receive cash or in-kind donations from local businesses?

Yes No

• a large number of people accessing your services?

Yes No

• recognition by the press, government, other agencies?

Yes No

• an active volunteer base involved with the agency?

Yes No

• positive testimonials from clients, members, volunteers, etc.?

Yes No

Have you had documented program success?:

• Can you demonstrate the results of the services you provide (e.g., changes in your clients as a result of services)?

Yes No

• Is there continuity in the successful provision of these services (e.g., history plus track record)?

Yes No

Is there evidence of good organizational health? Is the organization financially stable?:

• Does the board give money, as well as time, to the organization

Yes No

• Are you getting funds from a diverse array of funders/donors?

Yes No

• Are your staff and board well-qualified?

Yes No

• Is there a continuing demand for your agency's services?

Yes No

• Do you work collaboratively with other agencies?

Yes No

• Do you provide a unique service in your service area?

Yes No


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