I am not going to lie. I like doing fund audits and fund stewardship. I like taking the jumbled mess and making sense of it, analyzing the results, and accomplishing an important goal that has the potential to significantly affect your organization and its donors. It is not exciting or sexy, but fund audits can be powerful when done well. They are squarely in the “science” side of the donor relations house and are an important component of overall fund stewardship.
Limitations to our time, resources, and expertise often derail the development of a solid fund stewardship or compliance program and our efforts to conduct effective fund purpose and activity reviews. However, once a system is in place, fund audits and fund stewardship initiatives are not difficult to maintain. The internal investment is well worth the benefits reaped in stronger and more transparent relationships with our donors.
Before you can begin this type of work, or be successful in the space, the following three keys will be imperative to reaching your goal:
Insider Relationships: A solid working relationship with your internal peers, especially the finance, accounting, and legal teams is imperative. You will need access to their data and figures, their expertise, and often time their ability to open doors with partners on campus or throughout your organization that you may not interface with regularly (i.e., business managers, auditors, fund administrators, etc.).
Leadership Buy-In: Conducting fund audits and implementing organizational changes to fund stewardship practices is difficult. You do not want to get to the end of a long and cumbersome project only to have the results languish if your leadership and key partners are not on-board to implement the necessary changes or address the root causes of your fund stewardship challenges.
Donor-Centered Mindset: As often times these types of fundraising and stewardship activities fall to the financial or operations teams, the donor’s perspective does not always play a key role, as it should. As donor relations and fundraising professionals, it is our responsibility to bring the donor’s voice to the table in these initiatives. When educating the beneficiaries and fund administrators (faculty, staff, researchers) on why it is so important to administer these funds with utmost care and diligence, we must represent and advocate in the best interests of both the organization and the donor.
Fund stewardship is a growing sub-field within the donor relations and fundraising spectrum and no longer strictly live with the accountants and lawyers of the industry. The potential gains because of this work are endless.
If you are interested in learning more about fund stewardship and fund audit activity and how to tackle this space in a meaningful manner, join us in September of our webinar Fund Stewardship: The Alpha and Omega of Donor Relations. If you need help tackling your fund audit or fund stewardship challenges – reach out to us – we can help!