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Essentials of Development Seminar

This training is designed to help smaller or start-up organizations build a sustainable development structure. Over a pair of two-day sessions, our team of coaches of Pacific Northwest leaders present valuable materials and strategies to organizations.

Program Overview
Nearly 25 years ago, the Murdock Trust assembled a group of small and emergent nonprofit organizations to teach them the basics of fundraising. Since then, more than 250 organizations have benefited from the Essentials of Development — valuable training that helps them both articulate their mission and create a development program that will sustain the organization for years to come.

Time and dates: Two days each in December and May (four total days)

Topic overview: These seminars introduce important strategies, such as methods for developing a case statement, special approaches to donors with major gift capacity, role-playing on how to make the “ask,” an overview of the board’s role in the development program, and more.

Registration: $500 per organization. The Trust provides all meals, hotel accommodations in a private room, and all seminar materials.

More information: Look over the program details below and call or email us with any questions or if you’re interested in participating.

Core Values and Outcomes
Essentials of Development is named for its four essentials, which are directly tied to the program’s outcomes:

  • Essential #1: The Case Statement. An organization’s presentation piece for one-on-one interactions with prospective and continuing donors, the case statement is a key element of the Essentials program. It is written in conjunction with a philosophy of development describing how and why your organization seeks financial support from stakeholders, and what benefits or outcomes donors receive when they give. Each organization completes the Essentials of Development program with a polished case statement. To put the case statement into practice, at least two personal donor calls will be made and assessed by the Essentials faculty before the May session. (Log in to see the Case Statement Videos.)
  • Essential #2: The Annual Plan. A strong annual plan allows organizations to execute their mission and purpose through budgets and funding goals. This written strategy is prepared during one of the two-day seminars.
  • Essential #3: Segmented Donor List. Segmenting your donor list and having unique strategies for each segment — even to the level of individual donors — is a key value of the Essentials philosophy. Seminar participants will learn how to divide their roster of donors for maximum personalization and effectiveness. Each organization will leave with a segmented list of its donors, including a written strategy for re-engaging lapsed donors.
  • Essential #4: Development Team. An important component of any development strategy is having a core group of organizational leaders involved in the cultivation and solicitation of major donors. Each organization will begin to establish its development team, beginning with those who attend the seminar (see #3 below under Expectations).

In addition to a willingness to work within the structure of the core values listed above, there are four additional expectations of organizations participating in the Essentials of Development program:

  1. Prior to the seminar, each organization will complete a current survey that asks questions related to the organization’s finances, donor history, development strategies and more. Two additional surveys will build on the first survey. Completion of all surveys is a requirement of the Essentials program. The Trust uses this information to assess each organization’s progress and improve the Essentials program, and organizations will be given feedback regarding all survey results.
  2. Organizations will be coached by an Essentials faculty member, who works with the organization from the survey prior to the first seminar through the remainder of the training, to assess and build the organization’s development process.
  3. Because of the core value regarding development teams, each organization will bring three or four people to both seminar sessions: the head of your organization (e.g., Executive Director), at least one board member (the board chair is preferable) and additional board or staff members involved in fundraising.
  4. Each organization will complete its assigned work — specifically, the creation of the documents described above under Core Values and Outcomes. These documents will be evaluated by the Essentials faculty.

Real-time evaluation and feedback are provided during the Essentials of Development seminars and coaching sessions. Additionally, the Trust follows up with each participating organization to determine the program’s impact on the number of donor calls being made, board/director support, and the level of increase in giving revenue.

Download Seminar Materials


  • Overview of Fundraising (PDF)
  • Embracing the Donor (PDF)
  • Segmenting Donors (PDF)
  • The Fundraising Case (PDF)
  • The Case Statement (PDF)
  • Major Gift Stewardship (PDF)
  • The Asking Process (PDF)
  • Annual Fundraising Plan – Calendar: (Excel)
  • Annual Plan – Planning Worksheet: (PDF)
  • Annual Fund Development Strategy and Plan (PDF)
  • The Board and the Development Team (PDF)
  • Strategic Planning for Nonprofit Organizations (PDF)


  • Stand and Declare Action Items Handout (PDF)
  • Segmenting Prospects Handout (PDF)
  • Prospect Workshop Handout (PDF)