The Leaky Bucket Nonprofit Blog

What's the Deal with Development Audits?

Posted by Ellen Bristol on Wed, Jun 28, 2017 @ 10:57 AM

Why conduct a development audit? What is it anyway?

Development audits are in-depth analyses of what's happening in your fundraising shop - and what some people in the organization think is happening (or not). Opinions about such audits run the gamut from hate, fear and distrust to enthusiasm and delight at insights gained. We recently launched our new SMART Way Development Audit, and tailored it to respond to both the "delight" party and the "hate, fear and distrust" party. 

Since we're addicted to research, we surveyed nonprofit professionals about their opinions on audits. Here's what we discovered:

  • The two things people FEAR THE MOST about Development Audits 
  • WHY people want to conduct Development Audits, in spite of their fears
  • Whose voices SHOULD BE HEARD when doing these audits, and...
  • Are Development Audits just another way for fundraising consultants to wangle more money out of their clients?? 

If you'd like to see our video series on this topic, check it out here.

Thoughts About Development Audits


The Infamous Board Give-or-Get Policy

Posted by Ellen Bristol on Tue, Feb 05, 2013 @ 12:24 PM

Sometimes I'm a little slow on the uptake.  Even though my website has gotten lots of inquiries from people looking for advice on the infamous Board Give or Get Policy, it never occurred to me to create one.  So now I"ve created TWO.  Figured I'd give you a choice.  You can download the article containing both versions right here.


Your Nonprofit Board's Give-Or-Get Policy - Yea or Nay?

Posted by Ellen Bristol on Tue, Oct 18, 2011 @ 12:33 PM


Nonprofit Fundraising: Your Bucket is LEAKING!

Posted by Ellen Bristol on Wed, Jul 06, 2011 @ 11:03 AM

We began our Leaky Bucket Assessment for Effective Fundraising in May of this year, and already we are seeing some trends that should give all fund-development professionals food for thought.  But we need YOUR assessment to help validate our findings, so please, just visit -Leaky Bucket for Effective Fundraising to complete yours.  It's free, it only takes 5 minutes, and when you're done, I'll be happy to review it with you personally. 


Fund Development Needs Strong Leadership

Posted by Admin Admin on Thu, Sep 30, 2010 @ 10:42 AM

If there is ever a time for your organization's  leadership to rethink  fundraising practices, it's now, in this period of economic uncertainty.  We all know money is tight; maybe this is not the right time to seek huge gifts or risk launching a major event.  But it IS the right time to evaluate the sustainability of your fund development efforts so you can achieve consistent and predictable funding at controllable costs.  And that takes leadership.


Is your fund development plan sustainable?

Posted by Admin Admin on Wed, Sep 15, 2010 @ 03:36 PM

Does your nonprofit have a fund development process? Is that process sustainable?  Or is it "leaking" productivity and sustainability all over the place? Big questions, but not a lot of good answers out there



Posted by Eros Canabrava on Mon, Aug 23, 2010 @ 12:29 PM

 Tip #7:  Encourage them to leverage their contacts.  Board members know lots of people.  Make sure they feel comfortable approaching their contacts on your behalf.  Remind them that they may know wealthy individuals, people who like to volunteer, corporate executives looking for charities with which to align themselves, or folks who want to serve on boards.  Make your board members feel comfortable in approaching their contacts and connections.  This can be especially helpful if your board member is acquainted with the founder or director of a family-owned foundation. 

Tip #8:  Help them ask for money.  Some board members may be uncomfortable with asking for donations.  Give them a hand by providing your Case Statement, Ideal Donor Profile, and list of funding needs. Provide them with suggested presentation templates, solicitation scripts, and marketing materials they can leave behind. Arrange for some training.  Schedule participation in a class, bring in an outside expert, or devote time (in or out of board meetings) for board and staff members to practice, rehearse and coach one another until ‘making the ask’ feels natural. Make sure that no board member is ever required to call on a donor solo; always provide additional staff support. Revenue development is a professional skill, and it’s not fair to assume that all board members have equal skill or talent for the work.



Posted by Eros Canabrava on Mon, Aug 23, 2010 @ 12:28 PM

Tip #4:  Profile the types of donors you’d like to attract.  Describe your ideal donor, including details about the demographics of donors most likely to give such as age, zip code, level of affluence, history of past giving, and so forth.  Then include the interests, passions or convictions of your ideal donor.  Document this profile as a benchmark or guideline for qualifying new donors.  Once you have developed the ideal funder/donor profile, use it as a reason to exclude unqualified opportunities as well as to include the appropriate ones.  This reduces the likelihood of board members wasting time on unqualified prospects.



Posted by Eros Canabrava on Mon, Aug 23, 2010 @ 12:28 PM

“Should my board help me raise funds?”  The obvious answer is yes, of course they should!  Now comes the hard part.  Getting the board to actually raise money is a lot tougher than simply saying they should.   Many nonprofits, of all sizes and types of mission, overlook the basic steps necessary to engage the board in effective fundraising.    The following nine tips will put your board on the right track.  And there’s a bonus attached.  Once the board masters these eight steps, they will be participating, they’ll be engaged, and they will truly make a difference!

Tip #1:  Make sure the agency is worth raising funds for. The board’s primary responsibility is to govern the agency and ensure that it delivers on its promise.  That means the board sets direction, defines the vision, mission, goals and objectives, and holds the CEO or Executive Director accountable for achieving results.  It is not, emphatically not, the board’s job to act as volunteers, stuff envelopes, provide free legal or accounting services, although they may do such things if the board as a whole decides they should.   It is the board’s job to represent the constituents your agency serves, and to demand excellence from agency performance.  Once the board has clearly defined its leadership role, then and only then is it ready to start raising money.


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