Many nonprofit organizations find that a development audit is an ideal first step toward strengthening the organization. Such an audit can be accomplished typically within three months at very modest cost. The results of the audit provide a wealth of information with detailed recommendations designed to enable the organization to live more effectively into its mission, vision, and values.

Because development in its fullest sense is about relationships, a development audit examines the many ways in which the charity establishes and nurtures relationships with donors, volunteers, and other constituents, assessing the effectiveness of those efforts. The audit evaluates not only fundraising capabilities and potential—operating, capital, and endowment—but also the current status of strategic and long-range planning, and the ways in which the organization’s board, staff, and volunteers engage and generate support for the charity’s mission. Because development intersects every major area of governance and management, the development audit report becomes a powerful tool that the governing board and staff can use in strengthening the organization at all levels.

A proper development audit examines in detail the organization’s development history, current capabilities, and prospects for future expansion. The study looks closely at all major aspects (e.g., personnel, policies and procedures, systems, technology) of the charity’s development operation and its capabilities to provide support generally for the organization’s mission and specifically for any strategic, long-range, or master plan currently in place. In addition to a thorough study of representative financial, marketing, and public relations documents, the audit includes confidential interviews with key board members; staff in administration, development, marketing, and public relations; key stakeholders (e.g., clients, program participants, service recipients, faculty, students, alumni/ae, members, friends); key donors; key volunteers; and other major constituents (e.g., community leaders) who can offer insight into the complex interrelationships that undergird the financial and volunteer support of the organization. The audit evaluates how the organization perceives itself (corporate identity), how others perceive the organization (corporate image), and the effectiveness with which the organization communicates its message to the hearts of its supporters. The audit report includes a thorough assessment of operations and capabilities, as well as recommendations for future action indicated by the study.

A development audit provides an accurate, detailed “snapshot” of the organization’s capabilities to generate support through relationships by examining its development culture—what was in the past, what is now, and what is possible in the future. The audit report establishes a platform on which to base planning decisions, capitalizing on the charity’s strengths and addressing its weaknesses. Few investments produce such long-range benefit for a nonprofit organization.