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Fundraising Fundamentals, Section 7.11


Development Operations

Development operations are the activities that hold everything together – data management, gift processing, office procedures and event management. Without strong operations, your development activities will flounder. Achieving strong development operations requires good planning, time management and HR skills.

Plan Your Year

You need to include development operations in your strategic planning so that you can anticipate periods of intense activity and ensure that you have the capacity and resources in place to deal with it.

For example, in the month following a major appeal you may be inundated with gifts (hopefully), queries, changes of address and other contacts, so you need have sufficient capacity to deal with these tasks properly and promptly. When planning your year, take into account the calendar of your institution. There may be pre-existing events that you can leverage, budgeting deadlines, board meetings, and times you will need to avoid making significant requests of leadership and academics, such as examination periods.

Encourage Communication

If you are just establishing your office, you probably have a relatively small team. It is important that the team members understand one another’s roles and can support one another as required. An alumnus with a simple enquiry about his standing order start date won’t want to hear that the gift processer is on holiday for two weeks and no one can help him. He will expect an answer from whoever picks up the telephone. Cross training is helpful, and regular briefing meetings to share information can be useful.

Have Systems in Place

Establish office systems as soon as possible and encourage staff to comply with them. You will probably need to develop some templates to support these systems, such as contact report forms, event checklists and briefing templates. It is also advisable to establish some basic procedures and expectations – e.g., that the telephone is answered within four rings, emails are responded to within two working days, etc.

You also need to make sure that you are presenting a consistent and strong face to the world. Make sure that email footers are consistent, that the telephone is always answered the same way and that you comply with the institution’s brand guidelines.

Work Efficiently

Use your database and other technical tools to help you automate your activities as much as possible. Set task reminders, share calendars and discover how to personalise and print mailings directly from your database. Set time aside for regular essential tasks such as weekly financial tasks, monthly bank reconciliations, prospect reviews and updating contact records.

Action Item
  • In addition to your fundraising strategy, ensure that you have a thorough calendar of activities, well-defined staff roles, regular communication methods and clear office procedures and systems in place – and that staff members understand and are bought in to these operations.

You Might Also Want to Read:

Reviewing the current situation
Developing a fundraising strategy
Office structures
Working with the finance office
Working with human resources
The database
Contacts reports
Gift accounting and reporting


CASE provides a variety of information on organisational issues, including starting advancement operations and small advancement operations.

Leisl Elder talks about whether or not to have a finance person on your institution's development team, and how development departments can work with finance departments.
Lori Manders, director of development and alumni relations at University College London, talks about development operations.