Development teams in nonprofits have big hearts and desires. The people in those teams are relational, considerate, and truly passionate about the mission. These are amazing qualities. Development teams also desire to raise their effectiveness in raising funds and in building relationships. That’s the job and the foundation of the ministry. 

However, at least three things characterize development teams that are not hitting their full potential. Many have stellar gift officers, good programs, and energy.  Still, they’re not getting the traction they need. 

In most cases one or more of the following things keep them from achieving more.

3 Characteristics of Sub-Optimized Development Teams

  1. They’re not looking in the right places for major gifts or prospects…

It’s easy to look at other organizations and see big gifts that are gained at an event or written about in their newsletter.  What isn’t seen is the cultivation it took – sometimes over years – to move that relationship into the right time of giving.  In our experience fully 50% of major gifts will come from within the current file.  If the team is not dipping down to lower-level donors with the capacity to give more, always looking for the donor who might be “out there,” they’re just wasting resources right at their doorstep.

“If the team is not dipping down to lower level donors with the capacity to give more, always looking for the donor who might be “out there,” they’re just wasting resources right at their doorstep.”

  1. Lack of persistence and consistency…

Too often we think one message, email, or visit should yield a significant gift.   When it doesn’t arrive, we ASSUME the donor must not be interested or our approach was off.  In reality, it’s a keen awareness of the donor and deep relationship combined with a compelling vision to win a share of the donor’s heart, yielding also a share of the donor’s wallet. 

  1. Lack of Focus…

This is the worst. It’s true of anything that is valuable.  The more we focus on a single objective, the more likely we are to achieve it.  In my opinion, too many good development folks are taken off-focus toward any number of other “good” things.  The “good” things take away from the “best” things.


‘Focus-thieves’ seen in Sub-Optimized Development Teams:

Ask how these 6 things could be affecting your own development team:

* Attending endless meetings

* Chasing other department heads for stories or impact reports

* Showing up Monday morning without a plan for the week

* Too much time “in the office” rather than “with the donor”

* Managing inefficient reporting systems to satisfy management requests

* And one that gets my goat, planning ineffective events 


Look, if your non-profit is spending the dollars necessary to have a team of gift officers, it’s important to equip them to do the very best job they can to maximize the relationships with donors and help fund the organization at optimal levels.

Elevation Growth Partners helps optimize development teams to make sure they are achieving the results desired. 

If you’d like to read about the details of Momentum with Elevation Growth Partners, a program to maximize your team’s growth and effectiveness, click here: