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Syncing for Success: The Second Development and Finance Symposium

At the second Development and Finance Symposium, the balance between finance and development attendees was nearly equal (46 percent finance; 54 percent development), showing that both departments were more eager and keen to sync-up than ever.

Co-sponsored by AFP and the Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership at the Susanne M. Glasscock School of Continuing Studies, Rice University, the event brought attendees together from 15 states, two countries and two very important, yet different departments. The conclusion? They want MORE—more partnership, more education, more syncing.

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Angela Seaworth, ACFRE, director for the Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership at Rice University talks about the 2014 Development and Finance Symposium—the importance of the event, and ultimately the importance of the relationship between CFO’s and CDO’s.

 Samantha Inman, accountant with the Family Service Center Illinois, and Brooke Thomas, development specialist, also with the Family Service Center Illinois, came to the Development and Finance Symposium with one hope: to create a better working relationship between their departments.

“We understand the importance and efficiency of a finance and development team that works together,” agreed Inman and Thomas. “This symposium was a great resource to help us better corroborate and work in sync.”

Sending one without the other would still be beneficial, but having both a finance and development officers at the symposium gives a sense of teamwork. Touching base between sessions and debriefing on each person’s perspective of the session helps to give a broader perspective of both the finance and development aspects. What did each learn from the session? How will they take that back to their office? Now, how can we work together on those actions? You leave the symposium with a plan—a joint plan.  

Understanding Finance in a Development World

Inman, the finance representative, set out on the search to find a better way to manage communication between the development office and finance office, and to have a deeper understanding of the development office as a whole. What she found through the symposium was that everyone needed to be involved in the process of grants and fundraising—especially finance.

“Chief financial officers and chief development officers may count money differently, but we need to respect each other and trust each other,” says Inman about her learning from the symposium.

Fellow attendees also felt the notion of trust and its importance between the two departments. For the finance attendees it was extremely helpful to hear their development officers speak in sessions about their roadblocks at work. Getting the development professional’s perspective that the finance professionals don’t get to see every day, and having a third party mediator (the speaker) help to mend the roadblocks, was almost like finance-development therapy.

Speaking the Same Language

Thomas, the development representative, went in to the symposium wanting to learn more about how the finance office works regarding budgets, counting money, allocating money, etc., so she could learn how to help the two departments work better together. Fully understanding their process would help the development team be more patient and build a better working relationship.

In order to understand how her finance department works, Thomas learned that she first needs to understand finance, period. “I need a general knowledge of finances, which means I need to educate and train myself,” says Thomas.

Learning to speak the chief financial officer’s “language” will not only help the development team communicate more effectively, but it will also give them a deeper look into the intricacies that the finance team deals with on a daily basis. Being a team player and taking it upon themselves to understand more of the finance world will ultimately help the development officers in the long run.

Symposium speaker Ronald J. Schiller gives us a deeper look into the expectations of a new-world development officer in this article.

Team Finelopment—The Syncing of Both Departments

Being on site at the symposium gives you the feel-good sense of teamwork, but what happens when you both head home, back to the piles on your desk and the usual push-pull from the development and finance departments? You remember what you learned and you spread the symposium-love to your fellow finance and development colleagues—you recruit more players for Team Finelopment!

“Since we’ve been back in the office we have vastly increased our communication,” says Inman and Thomas. “We discuss budgets, fundraising, and review income for events before presenting to our board. We work together as a team and at least once a week we have informal meetings to share updates and important information.”

Due to both Inman and Thomas attending the second annual Development and Finance Symposium, the Family Service Center is more organized, efficient and communicative than ever. The symposium not only helped them figure out some of their key issues that were affecting their daily tasks, but helped them overcome them—as a team. They proved that you can sync or…sink.

Though a major focus and perk, the symposium isn’t all about team building—there are also individual sessions to help each the finance and development professionals build their skill sets. “This was one of the strongest workshops I have attended,” reports a finance attendee. “I felt like I was getting a peek into the world of metrics that I couldn’t discover or create on my own.”

Whether as a pair or an individual, the Development and Finance Symposium is a great event to feed your professional development and to build relationships within your own organization. For more information about the next symposium keep an eye on the AFP website in early 2015. Bonus: next year’s event will be in a brand new auditorium at Rice University! 

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