Have you been back to one of your favorite restaurants post-covid and been utterly dismayed with what’s happened to it?

I have.

I mean, most of us have some patience and understanding regarding the labor shortage many in the restaurant industry are going through. But you probably now realize how important the “back of the house” is in creating a great culinary experience. You can have the best chef, amazing food, but if it takes 45 minutes to get your meal after you order, and no one is able to get your water, and your drink order comes so late you forgot what you even said you wanted, it wrecks the entire experience.

The same can be said for your donor’s experience with your organization IF you don’t have the back office in order.

About a year ago, I was presenting the results of our donor file assessment for a large non-profit. In that meeting was the CEO, the executive team, and members of the development committee on the board. The assessment, in part, looks at donor value attrition. For this organization, they’d lost over $18 million in donor value attrition over the last 4 years.

Now, keep that in mind.

The last part of the assessment I show them is their 5-year revenue forecast. In that forecast it showed they would need to grow their frontline fundraising staff by 4 major gift officers and 8 mid-level officers over the course of those five years. The good news for this organization that if they did everything right, they could potentially see another $80 million in revenue than what they were on track to receive from mid and major donors.

So, it was time for questions. The CEO asked the best one. She said, “So, I’m assuming that this is not just about hiring more staff and hiring Veritus to reach our goals, right?”

Oh, if I could have every CEO say this after every presentation I make, it would bring me so much joy. In response to the CEO, I said, “You are exactly right. Not only do you need to adopt The Veritus Way of mid and major gifts and hire more staff, but you also need to get the back of the office in order.”

The CEO nods. I go on to say, “Last night I had dinner with five of your mid and major gift officers and I asked them their pain points. They said, ‘It takes me three weeks to find out if one of my donors in my portfolio gave a gift. So, they don’t get a thank you for over a month after the check clears the bank.’ This is a problem and if that isn’t fixed you will not achieve that $80 million.” I continue, “I also know that it’s cumbersome for your staff to enter data with your donor database. And there is no way for them to create a plan for their donors in that system. That must be fixed.”

The CEO responds, “Yep, we need to clean it up.” I look over toward the SVP of Development and she is nodding her head and she mouths to me, “Thank you.”

Richard and I find this problem all over the non-profit sector.

Look, you can have a great mission, the best acquisition program, incredible donor offers, et cetera… but if you don’t have the basics down of the back-office operations, we would say you are NOT donor-centered like you probably think you are, AND you will not grow your net revenue like you could IF you did have it down.

So, I want to ask you. Do you have your receipting right? Is it fast and appropriate? Do you have the right donor database that makes it easy for mid and major gift officers to find and add information? Is there a process to report on the impact of donors’ gifts? Do you have support staff, one admin for every three frontline fundraisers? All of these are extremely important.

If you want to recoup the revenue from the donor value attrition that is currently going on in your file, AND if you want to keep and grow that value over the next several years, you will pay attention to the strength of your back office.

This CEO was smart. She knew the right questions to ask, and I can happily report she’s responded and is getting her organization’s back office fixed.

What are you doing to provide back-office support for your fundraisers?