change agent cartoon: "What if we don't change at all ... and something magical just happens?"As part of the natural growth and maturing of an institution, you may find that your school needs to undergo a complete reinvention of its development function. How do you know if your time has come?

Consider if your school has experienced any of the following:

  • A merger or cutback
  • A funding model change
  • Increased revenue demands
  • Organizational maturity
  • New, large capital projects
  • Growth or change in facilities or campuses
  • Change in leadership at the board or administration level
  • Tuition discounts not achieving desired results
  • The current development function has reached capacity in terms of effectiveness

If any of these apply to your school, it’s time to consider reinvention.

You may have seen it coming. After all, change is usually unavoidable, often painful and difficult (which is why so many try to avoid it) but often necessary, even urgent.

Even so, you may wonder, “What exactly will reinvention do for my school?”


5 Reasons to Reinvent Your School’s Development Function

Your need to reinvent your development department likely ranges from strategic planning to urgent and dramatic. Yet, the desire to avoid the painful process may be overwhelming you into inoperativeness. To motivate you in this effort, consider what such a change can do for your school:

  1. Increase development revenues through a diversified and integrated fund development program
  2. Decrease the use of time-consuming, ineffective and costly methods with little or no ROI
  3. Increase the sophistication of the department
  4. Increase morale of staff who in turn are more productive
  5. Utilize existing resources and technology to be more efficient in raising revenue


Steps to Reinventing

The path is difficult, but with some guidance and planning it can be done efficiently and productively. Here are the basic steps to take in your reinvention process:

  1. Analyze your fund development revenues and expenses.
  2. Develop a thoughtful plan for restructuring.
  3. Consider outsourcing some of the department functions to outside vendors and consultants.
  4. Evaluate your current staff’s strengths and weaknesses.
  5. Determine if and how existing staff fit into the new structure.
  6. Keep staff abreast and informed of restructure developments.
  7. Create new job descriptions for the restructured department, outlining responsibilities, roles and reporting.
  8. Ensure that any terminations are done fairly and appropriately with adequate notice.

Once reinvention has occurred, you might want to prepare for future growth so that urgent change is avoided. In this final stage of reinvention, you may want to do the following:

  1. Conduct a long-range, facilitated, strategic-planning process and board retreat.
  2. Develop a long-range, strategic development plan that includes major gifts.
  3. Develop a resource development budget that is derived directly from the long-range strategic plan.
  4. Have administration and department directors use the strategic plan as a management tool.
  5. Focus on a more aggressive annual fund, individual donor-driven major gifts and planned giving.

Change is necessary, but it doesn’t really have to be so difficult or painful. Whatever stage of change you are in, the professional service of a change management specialist may be exactly what you need.


  • John Curtis

    John Curtis is president of Integrated Organizational Development (IOD). IOD provides analysis, insight and solutions for the capacity building and fundraising challenges of Christian Higher Education! [email protected]

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