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Fundraising Fundamentals, Section 2.1


Investing in the Office

Any new advancement activity, especially if you are starting a new development office, will require a significant financial investment during the early stages before settling into a more routine budget allocation process. This investment typically includes hiring new staff and key infrastructure items, such as a functional database.

The investment should be proportionate to the size of the institution and to the expectations around the proposed activity. If there is an expectation that every donor prospect will be contacted annually, for example, you will need significant development office resources to achieve this expectation.

Activities should also be prioritised, as the economic climate may not allow you to invest as heavily in the office as you would initially like.

Talk with the finance office early on to get a realistic view, and research if there are any funders (e.g., government agency initiatives) that are available to help with start-up costs.

Starting Out

Here are some of the direct costs you might encounter when starting a new development office:

  • Feasibility study,
  • Recruitment costs (advertising, agency fees, etc.),
  • Salaries,
  • Database,
  • Computer hardware,
  • Data cleaning/mining,
  • Prospect research,
  • Travel,
  • Office equipment and
  • Training.

In addition to these direct investments,  there will be indirect costs borne by other areas of the institution that will be working closely with the advancement office – finance, human resources, marketing and so on. The increase in their workload might also require additional investment.

It's Not Just the Office

For development efforts to be successful, they must be embedded firmly in the infrastructure and culture of the institution and funded as a core activity rather than as a ‘special project’.

If development and fundraising are new activities for the institution, set aside some investment for the training of senior staff and academic leaders. It is important that they have basic knowledge about advancement in order to co-operate with the fledging development office.

Action Item
  • Create a list of direct and indirect costs associated with starting or expanding your development activities/office. Note which expenses will be one-time start-up costs and which items will be incorporated with an ongoing annual budget (generated with the development director).

You Might Also Want to Read:

ROI: The levels of returns that can be expected
Championing the office internally

Shirley Pearce recalls the first steps she took to create her development team, beginning with training at CASE.
Shirley Pearce recalls the first steps she took to create her development team, beginning with training at CASE.
Thomas describes how his development office is funded and budgeted.
Eric Thomas gives advice to those starting a development office.
Leisl Elder describes her institution's income streams and compares that model to those at other institutions.