clip_image002In recent interviews about donor development, presidents of leading Christian ministries either used or alluded to one key concept: Accountability. They specifically felt concern with the perceived lack of accountability in many organizations’ major donor development programs.

If we find factual truth to the presidents’ perceptions, it points to the lack of understanding that accountability is a fundamental concept through the Scriptures. We see examples in Scripture—from God punishing Adam and Eve for disobedience, to Jesus assessing the quality of His disciples’ ministry, to the Apostle Paul re-visiting churches he started to check on progress.

Accountability has always been a key component of Kingdom work. And it remains essential in Christian ministries today.

Accountability assumes a goal is set in place. It also assumes the one setting the goal checks in with those expected to meet the goals to see progress and provide encouragement, adjustments and correction as needed.

Out of a legitimate desire to extend kindness and grace, many Christian leaders too often fail to hold staff members accountable for results. I believe this lack of accountability leads to poor stewardship—both of people and financial resources.

Increase Accountability with Your Team

So, how can you increase accountability in your major donor program? I think there are four basic steps:

1. Accountability starts with your Board.

Every Board member should contribute financially to your ministry at some level and should introduce the President to others who can also give. The most effective Boards hold their members accountable for doing so. When your Board holds itself accountable, it sets the stage for the Board to hold you accountable for fundraising. In turn this establishes the context for you to hold your staff accountable.


2. Establishing measurable goals.

Donor development is one area where you can easily set measurable goals because you are dealing with something tangible—money. In one research project Advocace found that nonprofit leaders were much more likely to set department-wide goals rather than individual goals.

Setting departmental goals is good but that diffuses responsibility among a number of people and makes individual accountability more difficult to initiate. We recommend setting both departmental and individual goals, especially for staff members assigned to cultivate relationships with major donors.

Another tendency is to set long-range (annual) goals, but doing so often leads to staff procrastination. We recommend setting weekly or monthly goals for the number of major donor contacts (phone calls or personal visits) or the dollars pledged or given.

3. Regularly review progress toward meeting goals.

The most effective presidents meet at least weekly and sometimes several times a week with staff members assigned to cultivate relationships with major donors. You can accomplish a number of important responsibilities in these meetings:

  • Make New Major Donor Assignments
  • Reports On Recent Visits, Both Successful and Not-So-Successful
  • Help Each Other with Suggestions for Improvement in Donor Calls
  • Use Role-Playing to Rehearse Future Donor Contacts
  • Provide Training to Improve Listening Skills, Ways to Ask, Etc.
  • Brainstorm Ideas for Ways to Approach Other Donors

By the way, the most powerful way to lead your development team is by example. When you share your goals and the results with your team (whether positive or negative), you demonstrate accountability is a two-way street. You are accountable to them as well as they are accountable to you.

4. Reassign or release staff members who can’t produce results.

One ministry leader said the best thing a new president can do is to assess quickly which staff members produce gifts and which simply visit people without tangible results. And re-assign or release those who aren’t producing. That sounds a bit brutal but it actually demonstrates good stewardship, both of people and financial resources.

So, what level of accountability exists on your major donor team? Which of the above four steps for improving accountability does your team need to work on?

Want to discuss how you can keep your ministry’s Major Donor Team Accountable to grow relationships and produce funds? Request your free 1-Hour Consultation.

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