The 5 Characteristics of Mature Development Programs

Annual Funds are successful prior to the start of the fiscal year.  Campaign goals are achieved before they are announced.  Tomorrow’s planned gifts were solidified years ago.

Our successes today depend on how mature our development program was yesterday.   The more mature our programs, the more optimistic we can be regarding success today and tomorrow.  Less mature programs invite more pessimistic projections.

So, what are the characteristics of a “mature” development program?  I think there are 5:

  • Planful – mature programs spend ample time (typically 4-7 days per year) in planning and updating overall advancement goals and objectives;
  • Flexibly Closed-Minded – mature programs have developed patterns and systems of work which….well, work.  Whether it is the annual fund direct mail program, a prospect management system, or the integrated marketing work flow, mature programs understand how to make success happen.  But, they also are willing to change their structures and systems if something more effective appears.
  • Extrospective – while they spend ample time planning their work internally, the focus of the work is external.  Mature programs know the action is with donors so they aren’t chained to the desk sending countless well-crafted emails, getting bogged down in internal committee work, or, in general, getting caught up in the drama of the institution;
  • Transparent – it takes only a few moments to assess the effectiveness of a mature development program.  Mature programs tend to have only a few, regular, easy-to-read reports that focus on the most basic metrics.  They include year-over-year trend data as well as progress against specific goals;
  • Integrative – mature programs understand that the work is not simply to “go get the money.”  Instead, mature programs play a significant role in crafting the vision for the future of the organization and then educating people on why that vision is important and worthy of investment.  Mature programs are key to the strategic planning of the institution;

We usually think about an individual’s professional growth and maturity.  I’m convinced, though, that the collective habits of our development teams lead to a level of development maturity as well.  If you execute regularly in the five areas above, your program will become more mature and, ultimately, more effective.

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