Organizations often tussle over which department should open the envelopes that might contain donations (development or finance/accounting). Below two nonprofit experts provide their opinions--development or finance.
From a fiduciary standpoint, I would strongly favor having all funds being received and recorded by the Finance department. But because of the importance of prompt and proper documentation and acknowledgment of donations, I would also strongly favor the establishment of a procedure that is mutually agreeable to both Finance and Development in terms of both financial accountability, donor information and recognition, and other development information. Don't argue over who gets first crack at the checks! Work out a procedure that meets both Financial and Development needs. Hold out for a mutually agreeable procedure; but don't try to control the dollars or preempt accounting priority. You'll lose if you try to outflank accounting, unless your Board's Finance Committee is asleep at the switch. This situation requires a "win-win" solution!!! You can "win" by joining with acccounting and working to create a sound process for recording and responding to contributions in a timely, efficient fashion.
Robert D. Shriner, Ph.D. of Shriner-Midland Company, Management & Economic Consultants, in Warrenton, Virginia
I am reminded of the many times I worked with development officers whose Finance Directors insisted that their organizations' charitable contributions be received in the finance department first. Strongly countering those demands on those many occasions, I have always insisted that all checks --- all gift transmittals --- from any source --- should go initially and directly to the development department. This makes sense from a good organizational and efficiency point of view --- considering the avoidance of troublesome time lags to thank donors, facilitating the presentation to donors of any special benefits for membership gifts and named opportunities, apprising solicitors right away that their efforts paid off so that they do not make embarrassing follow-up calls to donors whose gifts are already in house, developing timely progress reports for the campaign leadership, being up to the minute regarding campaign results to know exactly how we are doing toward working to meet our goal, etc., etc. But, there is something else, and I think it is very important, which is lost on most folks outside of the development departments' mindset. That is the morale boost and the excitement the hard-working development folks experience when contributions are received in the morning's mail. All of the contributions, not some of them, and as promptly received as possible from the time they were dispatched by the donors. Not as an after-the-fact from finance when they were able to get around to it, but first and foremost to the department and location where such gifts should logically be directed --- as sent directly by the donors, passed on by volunteer solicitors, when they are inadvertently sent to other departments --- any which way. I hasten to add that I am not a Finance Director "basher." When I was a Director of Development, that was the same person who saw to it that I received my paycheck on time, worked well with me to develop and regularly review budgets and forecasts, and who helped to pay development-incurred expense invoices as promptly as possible --- and who came through in a timely manner with cash advances, and expense reimbursements. But we differed mightily when it came to my development department's point-of-receipt of our organization's charitable gifts. Opening the mail each morning, with the hope and the anticipation of first seeing those new and renewed gifts, was something I simply would not give up. On many special occasions, sometimes minutes after opening the mail, I would be on the phone in the most timely way to thank donors and volunteer solicitors, and let the campaign Chair know the good news. If the news was bad, I could as well move with dispatch to find out why. Any other process to delay those actions, even for a short time, was unacceptable.
Tony Poderis, author of the Fund Raising Forum Library ( http://www.raise-funds.com/library.html)