HIGHER THINKING BLOG
Development and Finance Teamwork By Winters Richwine
Development and Finance Teams Working Together
Planned gifts like charitable trusts, charitable gift annuities, donor advised funds, etc. can be key sources of funding for Christian nonprofit organizations. Because these types of gifts include ongoing interaction with donors, they can also be relationship builders for future gifts. However, planned gifts are often complex and involve both the development and finance teams of the organization.
Internal Challenges with Planned Gifts
The usual tension between those in the development/sales function and those in the finance/administrative function certainly exists when it comes to planned giving. Development teams want to close new gifts and are willing to go outside the box even if doing so might create difficulty for the finance team. The finance team wants everything to fit inside said box and complains about development teams going rogue. Relationships soon become strained, and the two departments no longer coordinate with each other. Even worse, turf wars may arise.
Both teams must first realize that they have shared goals: to further the mission of the organization and to serve donors with excellence. With that perspective, each team can more easily maintain a collaborative mindset. As in any relationship, communication is a key foundational element. A few tips are listed below to supplement this foundation of the development-finance partnership:
- Coordinate with the finance department in advance on potential gifts that may be unique/new to the organization.
- Don’t be afraid to bring the finance department into discussions with potential donors. The finance department can demonstrate the organization’s administrative excellence and give the donor confidence that the gift will be managed properly.
- Be willing to adjust if needed. The finance department may suggest a small change to the gift’s terms that won’t upset the donor but will remove an administrative headache.
- Identify champions within the finance team that will support new ideas.
- Keep in mind that closing a significant gift is difficult – maintain a spirit of flexibility. A large gift is often worth the challenge.
- Understand the goals of the organization’s donors. Design processes to accommodate popular gift types and gift features.
- Be willing to share with the development team which gift types and gift features have worked well and which haven’t.
- To maintain donor satisfaction and encourage future gifts, provide ongoing communication/reporting to donors.
While communication seems like an obvious element of teamwork, one cannot overstate its importance in the development-finance partnership. Organizations which communicate with a collaborative mindset will see the most success in attracting first-time and repeat planned gift donors. Ultimately, these organizations will gain the greatest amount of financial resources to conduct God’s work on Earth.
Winters Richwine is a Principal and the Chief Operating Officer at Cornerstone Management. Cornerstone Management serves Christian nonprofit organizations as an investment consultant, planned gift administrator, and planned gift consultant.
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