Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted. – Albert Einstein
Ideally your nonprofit is focused on raising the money you need to deliver on your mission and vision. You have a strong fundraising team with talented staff, enthusiastic volunteers, the right technology, and a communications strategy that gets the word out to all the right people. The money is coming in and everyone is feeling good about the progress being made. You believe you are on target to meet or beat your fundraising goals. Or are you? What do you know, and what do you not know?
Tracking gifts and grants received can be a challenge. That may sound odd, but if you think about it there are many ways that funds can be received, deposited and (hopefully) acknowledged. Here are three scenarios to consider
- A donor personally gives the executive director or president a check. What does she do with it? Does she give it to the accounting department? Does she ask her assistant to deposit it? How long does this take? How many hands does it pass through? Does she communicate any written or verbal directions from the donor? If the gift is for a new science lab, how would the accounting department know this? How would the funds be recorded so that expenses can be charged against the grant?
- A check arrives in the mail. What happens to it? Who opens the mail? Does the person know who should receive checks? The executive director? The accounting department? Development department? If a check is directed to a specific department, who within the department receives it? If the check is given to the accounting department, how do people in development know that a check has been received? Do you use a shared database? Do checks need to be entered in two different systems? If you don’t enter gifts in the fundraising database, how do you know when a donor you have been cultivating makes a gift? How will you thank this person? Do the accounting and development departments reconcile their numbers on a regular basis?
- A volunteer secures a gift when meeting with a donor. What does he do with it? Do your volunteers know who to call in the development office? Do development professionals stay in close contact with fundraising volunteers? What if a donor agrees to a gift when meeting with a volunteer, and later transfers funds electronically? How would your nonprofit link the gift to the donor? Who would know to send a thank you?
Related to these scenarios, how quickly are checks deposited? How are checks, electronic transfers, and online gifts linked to individual or institutional donors and their requirements? If you are with a university, how do departments or researchers communicate with the advancement division regarding grant applications, restricted funds, and matching requirements (if any)?
We recommend documenting your processes and periodically testing them. Take time to look closely at your policies and procedures. Make sure they are transparent, work for your nonprofit, and ensure accountability.