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An Executive's Guide to Fundraising Operations: Principles, Tools and Trends

ISBN: 978-0-470-61001-5
256 pages
March 2011
An Executive


A straightforward guide to the principles of effective fundraising operations

An Executive Guide to Fundraising Operations provides fundraisers with easy-to-understand approaches to evaluate and address fundraising operations needs and opportunities. This guide simplifies and focuses on the analysis of problems and needs, allowing a quick return to fundraising.

  • Provides the essential framework to improve and innovate development operations
  • Includes dozens of practical tools, including sample policies for data, database, reporting, and business processes
  • Offers sample workflow illustrations for gift processing and acknowledgment, report specification, and other processes
  • Features sample reports for campaign management, performance management, and exception management
  • Delivers effective calculators for operational rules of thumb

No matter what the department is called, most fundraisers struggle with evaluating operational issues. This guide leads you through principles of effective fundraising operations, simplifies complicated topics, and offers solutions to some of the most vexing operations dilemmas.

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Table of Contents




Chapter 1: Introduction.

Supporting Fundraising.

What is Fundraising Operations and Where Should It fit in the Organization?

Fundraising Operations: What's in a Name?

What Does “Fundraising Operations” Include?

Organizational and Environmental Factors Shape Operations.

Using this Guide to Improve Decisions.

Chapter 2: Principles of Fundraising Operations.

Data, Technology, Reporting, Process, and People.




Processes as Key Responsibilities.


Chapter 3: Responsibilities of Your Fundraising Operations Team.

Technology Management.

Primary Roles in Transitions: Arbiter and Advocate.

Data Maintenance.

Gift Processing.


Prospect Development.



IT, HR, Finance, and More.

A Special Note about Finance.

Chapter 4: Program Support.

Major Giving.

Annual and Unrestricted Giving.

Constituent Engagement Programs.


Special Initiatives or Constituencies.

Healthcare Fundraising and Grateful Patient and Family Programs as Special Cases Moving from Fundamentals to Innovations. 

Chapter 5: Trends, Fads, and Staying Ahead of the Curve.

Which Curve?

Applying Principles to Trends.

Volume, Accessibility, and Ubiquity of Data.

Consumer Data, Analytics, and Ethics.

Virtualization, Web Applications, and Mobility.

Social Media Mania.

Evolving applications for evolving technologies.

Advances in Reporting and Analytics.

New Staff and Performance Considerations.

Fast-moving Trends.

Chapter 6: Decision Advice from the Field.

Ideas from Practitioners.

Development Leader at a Leading Austrailian University.

Children's Healthcare Foundation President.

Fundraising Operations Consultant.

Liberal Arts College Vice President.

Advancement Leadership at Division I University.

University System Operations Assistant Vice Ppresident.

Healthcare Executive Director of Development.

Executive Director at a Top 10 University.

Development Director at a Leading Medical Center.

Making Your Executive Decisions.

Chapter 7: Tools for Fundraising Operations.



What are the ten signs of bad data?

How do you know your data are accurate?


What are the five myths of the conversion process?

What does a data exception log look like?

How effective is the implementation of your database?

What does a sample scorecard look like?


What are the seven qualities of a great reporting environment?

What are five most important types of reports for campaign and prospect management?

What does an effective data dictionary look like?


How can you calculate and establish impact measures for your operations team?

How can you gauge good training outcomes?

How can you evaluate your gift processing?

What does the “front of the line” approach look like for gift processing?

How should gift processing assess donor’s checks?

What does a good staff survey on operations look like?

How can you start a great prospect management system?


What are the ten characteristics of great operations team members?

What are the five signs team members are looking for new positions?

How can you assess staff performance of the operations and other teams?


Appendix A: Sample Data Dictionary.

Appendix B: APRA Statement of Ethics.



About the Author.

AFP Code of Ethical Principles and Standards.

A Donor Bill of Rights.


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Author Information

Christopher Cannon, CFRE, is a managing associate with Bentz Whaley Flessner, a full-service development consulting firm serving higher education, healthcare, and nonprofits. Mr. Cannon partners with clients around the world to leverage their data, technology, and processes to foster increased fundraising results. His presentations and writing, such as recent articles in AHP Journal and AFP's Advancing Philanthropy, focus the fundraiser on aligning fundraising operations with the organization's programs and mission.
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