Strategic Program Assessment

How is your fund-raising program performing? Has the economy impacted donor or dollar results? Are you wondering if your major gifts, annual giving or overall advancement programs are as effective as they could be?

In this climate, maintaining or increasing results requires taking a fresh look at the program and considering additional initiatives, but the question is-- which initiatives make sense in a time of tight budgets and seriously of limited resources? And let’s face it, sometimes you have to make trade-offs—so which things can you let go of and still be successful?

A program assessment can help you understand your strengths, weaknesses and opportunities to build a plan for future growth.

A program assessment is a careful examination of both the way in which the program is currently structured, funded and operating and the environment that exists within the organization to support that operation. Through the assessment process, we determine the areas in which the program is performing well, the areas where there is opportunity to improve performance, and the degree that the program is integrated with and supported by the broader advancement or fund-raising program.

The outcome of our work

A written report providing observations and recommendations specific to your organizations’ current situation and needs. The recommendations are designed so that they can be executed over the course of one to three years, and we include counsel to support your implementation. In fact, we won’t write a contract that doesn’t include at least one year of follow-up because we know how difficult it is to implement change.

The strategic assessment process consists of four phases.

Information gathering

First is the collection and review of data regarding the program’s performance over a period of at least five years. Also included within this data review process is an evaluation of the way in which the program is structured, staffed and supported, and the way it intersects with other key program areas.

On site visit

The second phase of the assessment includes an on-site visit during which the consultant will interview the program staff, the vice president, the director of development and other leadership, and a selection of staff in other program areas that relate to the successful functioning of the program.

Analysis and recommendations

The third phase of the assessment is the coalescence of the performance and operations data with the interview results to create a summary report presenting findings and outlining a series of specific recommendations. A draft of the initial report is submitted for review and comment prior to production of the final report, and the final report is then presented in-person by the consultant to staff and volunteer leaders.

Support for implementation

The fourth phase includes consulting time to assist in the implementation of the study recommendations. While some consulting firms do not include a fourth phase in their initial contracts, experience has demonstrated that the study is most valuable to the client if there is a period of consistent follow-up and guidance through at least the first year of implementation. That’s why we include on-going counsel for implementation in every assessment contract as part of the services West Wind Consulting Strategies in Fund Raising, LLC provides.

Specialized Strategic Assessments

Major Gifts Programs

We all know that the success of any major campaign, indeed any fund-raising program, rests on the shoulders of a strong major gifts program, but how do you know if yours is up to the task? A program assessment can help you determine if you have the right approach to the relationship management process as well as the most effective staffing structure and support systems necessary to make a major gift program perform at its optimum.

Annual Giving Programs

Annual giving program assessments are a particular strength of West Wind Consulting’s team. Both Kathy Cole and Maya Gasuk have extensive experience in planning and managing annual giving campaigns, particularly in higher education settings. See Annual giving assessments for more details.

Overall Advancement Programs

An overall advancement program assessment looks at the entire fund-raising operation including major and planned giving, foundation and corporate relations, annual giving, donor relations, prospect research and other advancement services programs to evaluate how each program is performing, how effectively programs are integrated, and where they might be opportunity to strengthen fund raising overall. This assessment process helps to identify major gaps in programs and where strategic investments of time and resources will provide the greatest payback. Overall advancement assessments are particularly valuable when planning and preparing for a campaign. See campaign readiness for more information.

The bottom line? Through the strategic program assessment process, we provide a written action plan for enhancing your fund-raising program and expert advice to help you and your team make it happen.