Development and finance teams have their own unique but overlapping responsibilities around the management of revenue. They answer to different audiences and measure success in different ways. This can lead to what appears to be discord but really is a natural push and pull of departments sharing data to different ends.
Looking to empower your development and finance teams to better collaborate? Start with these three best practices:
1. Create policies together
A great change management technique, build (or re-engineer) your policies in a collaborative way. This can be around where/how gifts are entered and even more importantly, what types of gifts your organization will accept. To illustrate this, donors sometimes want to fund a project that is outside an organization’s mission. Having gift acceptance policies enables development leadership to nicely say “great suggestion but it doesn’t match our organizational policies, instead are you interested in this other mission–centric project?” to a donor. And it allows finance to ensure they are protecting the organization from off–mission spending and management. Creating (or re-engineering) policies together results in buy-in, clarity to the donor and greater efficiency.
2. Establish who owns (and uses) what data
Procedures outline the “how–to” (very important) – what we’re suggesting here is to detail WHY we do something, HOW the information is used and by whom. Review the data you capture – and the data you want to capture – and determine who owns/uses what.
Here are some real-life examples:
- The natural intersection of the work among finance and development is typically at the fund level; it’s the crux of how a donor is stewarded (development conveying the impact of giving and planning future solicitations) and the crux of reconciliation (for finance, the revenue has to be spent properly, according to mission and is audited). For example, campaigns and appeals are generally created by and owned by your development team. These are strategic tools that ideally compel someone to donate. There is an art and science behind creating and managing campaigns and appeals – fundraising is a body of work. Development is responsible for the revenue that funds the mission and keeps the lights on.
- That said, Finance (among other things) focuses on the real cash and pledges/payments which must be reconciled with what’s in the bank. And of course, manages how this revenue is spent. Fund management, both revenue in and out is a complex process having extra scrutiny through an audit. Audits can be internal and external – sometimes they seem never-ending! The auditor drills into those gifts, asking many questions to ensure what you report came in actually came in. This is all to certify and ensure the organization is caring properly for that hard sought revenue. Blips in this can result in tax exempt status being revoked and impact charity watchdog ratings. No pressure finance people!
Establish a forum for these teams to get to know each other and each other’s work. Does your finance team know why date of birth is important for a fundraiser? Does a fundraiser know why finance is focused on speed and getting those gifts reconciled? Bottom line is these teams may not know the full scope of the work they each do. Consider a monthly pizza party (sponsored by your development and finance leadership to show the initiative is supported) with team members during which they are asked to share a “working together” best practice and an issue that needs to be resolved. Part of change management is continuing the dialogue and dare we say, have fun. Make it a goal to hear: “I didn’t know you did all that” or “that’s more complicated than I thought.” All while eating pizza and getting to know each other better.
The reality is that development and finance operate in the same fundraising and financial relationship management solutions. We can all agree on these rallying points:
- Technology can and should support your fundraising and financial relationship strategy.
- We’re all in the relationship management business.
- These teams need each other and together best steward the health of your organization and its mission.
Join Heather LeVan and Lisa Fay Wellek for their bbcon session “Development Is from Mars! Finance Is from Venus! Integrating Development and Finance Through Technology and Best Practices” for a deeper dive into how to facilitate understanding and collaboration between dependent departments that have different priorities. Register today!
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