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Restructure Your Development Department By John Curtiss

Know when it’s time to restructure and make changes.

With almost any Christian organization, a review of structure and operations of the development function should be considered from time to time. As part of the natural growth and maturing, many organizations may find themselves facing the need to undergo a complete restructuring of their development function.

An organization may need to restructure when any or all of the following occur:

  • A merger or cutback
  • A funding model change
  • Increased revenue demands
  • Organizational maturity
  • New, large capital demands
  • Staff growth or change
  • Change in leadership at the board or staff level


Change is usually unavoidable, often painful and probably necessary. It can also be quite difficult. The need for restructuring your development function may vary from planned and strategic to compelling and dramatic, as follows:

  • When the current development function has reached capacity in terms of effectiveness
  • To move toward a different model of fund development
  • To increase the sophistication of the development department
  • To surmount a plateau in efforts and to be successful
  • To employ a more productive and engaged staff and increase morale
  • To utilize existing resources and technology to be more efficient in raising revenue
  • To increase development revenues through a diversified and integrated fund development program
  • To decrease the use of time-consuming, ineffective and costly methods

Steps to Take

When a restructuring is necessary, the following steps should be considered:

  1. Analyze the organization’s fund development revenues and expenses
  2. Develop a thoughtful, prayerful plan for restructure
  3. Consider outsourcing some of the department functions to outside vendors and consultants
  4. Evaluate current staff strengths and weaknesses
  5. Determine if and how existing staff fit into the new structure
  6. Keep staff abreast and informed of restructure developments
  7. Create new job descriptions for the new, restructured department, outlining responsibilities, roles and reporting structures
  8. Ensure that any terminations are done fairly and appropriately with adequate notice


Once restructuring takes place, however, the organization might find itself needing to finish the following:

  • Conduct a long-range facilitated strategic planning process and retreat
  • Develop a long-range strategic fund development plan
  • Develop a fund development budget that comes directly from a long-range work plan
  • Have executives, directors and managers use the work plan as a management tool
  • Focus on a more aggressive annual fund, individual and major giving work and planned gifts
  • Begin plan implementation


John Curtis, Ph.D. is a fundraising specialist with 30+ years of experience providing fundraising and capacity building services to faith-based organizations nationwide.

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