Donors Demand Good Management – and They Know It When They See It

11 03 2011

Do our missions of service supersede anything else we do?  Are the loyalties of our alumni, patients, and patrons so powerful that we will be forgiven for other organizational shortcomings?

Perhaps on occasion donors will look past our operation, but it seems a risky proposition based on a continual flow of research on donor behavior. The clear message we are receiving from donors is –  “You must be well run”  and “You must have a plan.”  In 2002, Sarbanes-Oxley, which governed publicly traded companies, sent a shockwave through non-profit boards who suddenly started paying a lot more attention to what was happening at the organization for which they were members.  Enter the era of accountability.  But this has been a slow and steady drumbeat and for those who have not heard it yet … accountability is coming to a non-profit near you!

When the Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Indiana University’s Center on Philanthropy released the 2009 “Study of High Net-Worth Philanthropy”, what has mattered most to these donors when deciding where they give is the organization should demonstrate sound business practices. Our missions matter, but donors demand that we can deliver on the promise.

Source: Chronicle of Philanthropy December 2, 2010 – “Bank of America Merrill Lynch and the Indiana University Center on Philanthropy”

This is not a new trend, merely a new way of phrasing it… other studies show donors want less money spent on administration, the Bentz Whaley Flessner 2010  Healthcare Survey indicated that donors want staff to demonstrate a good knowledge of the hospitals for which they work. In discussions with donors around the country, its invigorating and surprising to see how much they understand about our organizations and they are watching, and most importantly — making decisions!

Action Plans for Demonstrating Good Management:

  1. Your organization should have a strategic plan that is relevant and tactically being deployed.
  2. The development office should have a strategic and tactical operating plan.
  3. Create appropriate transparency in our organization so that donors understand where you are going.
  4. Utilize metrics throughout the organization (but particularly in development) to show you are accountable.
  5. Listen to your donors/prospects, they will tell you when they are not seeing these things — if we listen!



One response

16 03 2011
kim spear

Nicely stated points.Hope to see you in 2011.Hope the blog meets your expectations.

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