Is Your Development Operation Road-Worthy? Time to Assess

Is Your Development Operation Road-Worthy? Time to Assess

July 07, 2015 by Juli Knutson

If a client is just beginning to explore the notion of a feasibility study and an eventual campaign, JGA may offer what we call an Initial Assessment — better known internally as a “Kick the Tires” assessment. Just as an early 20th-century motorist might kick the tires of a new vehicle to determine the road-worthiness of its tires, it can be extremely important to do the same with a development department before it sets out on the challenging and winding road of a campaign.


The Initial Assessment is a way to take stock of how the development operation is functioning and what may need to be improved before moving forward with a campaign or major gifts initiative. This preliminary step can position an organization or institution exceptionally well—for a feasibility study and, ultimately, a significant fundraising effort.


In the Assessment, JGA will review materials and fundraising data as well as have conversations with staff members and key constituents to get to know your organization and its history in development. Staffing, database capabilities, operations, donor engagement, stewardship, and involvement of leadership, staff, and volunteers in fundraising will be examined.


Conducting this review allows JGA to dig down into the data and relevant background information that will tell a more complete story of what has been accomplished in recent years and what resources will be needed be successful in a campaign. The “Kick the Tires” study will reveal any areas that may need to be shored up prior to engaging in a feasibility study to test campaign priorities with your key constituents.


Often, an Initial Assessment indicates areas where further prep is needed before undertaking a campaign or major gift initiative. There may be more cultivation to be done with prospective donors, or staff to be added to accommodate the extra workload a campaign will bring. It is much better to face any challenges early on than to encounter bigger issues in the midst of a campaign. At the same time, leadership gets a much better picture of the entire development operation by doing this brief Assessment and will be better prepared for upcoming feasibility study and campaign work.


Taking the extra time to “kick the tires” of the development office will inform the decision about the right timing for embarking on the long journey of a campaign.