Bridging the Development and Finance Divide: 4 Pillars of Healthy Communication for Ministries


Perhaps the most critical relationship to funding success in a ministry is between the Development and Finance departments.  When there is alignment, the ministry can take advantage of growth opportunities, make better decisions, and effectively advance its mission.

In a perfect world, the Development and Finance departments complement one other’s strengths and, as a unified team, they produce the greatest “win” for the ministry. However, research has shown that collaboration between Development and Finance professionals is challenging, especially according to younger generations in the workforce.

Hello! Do you speak English?

The divide between Development and Finance is understandable. They live in two different worlds. Development “counts” the money, working toward fundraising goals, aiming to increase giving, and creating new giving opportunities. Those in Finance “account” for the money. They are focused on processing and communicating financial information and following GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles). The two also speak different languages. Development speaks the language of donors while finance speaks the language of accounting. The divide between those two groups can, at minimum, contribute to miscommunication and at worst, the chasm can trigger unending conflict.

Bridging the Finance and Development Divide through Healthy Communication

1 Corinthians 12 paints a beautiful picture of how God designed the individual parts of the body to work together for the good of the whole. Likewise, it is valuable for both Development and Finance to remember that each is equally needed and to bridge the divides that naturally occur through healthy communication.

Communication between departments doesn’t just happen because you’ve been asked to communicate. It happens when there are intentional opportunities created for communication to happen. The gap can be closed, and a team is united through communication that is supported, like pillars in a bridge, by four intentional actions on the part of both Development and Finance.


1. Collaborate

Unity within a team is built when the team has agreed or at least understands a common goal or objective. To bridge the divide, include both Development and Finance in key strategy meetings. Make sure everyone is on the same page regarding the goals of funding activities and campaigns. Communicate in advance what language needs to be used in communication with donors and what information is needed by Finance to appropriately account for donations. Don’t assume but ask questions, seek input, define terminology, and agree on how funding opportunities are going to begin, operate, and wrap up.

Action Item: What is one thing that you could do that would help facilitate collaboration? Do it!

2. Honor

When honor is present between two groups as 1 Corinthians 12 encourages us, communication can flow freely with plenty of mercy and grace to walk through misunderstandings.

At its root, honor is respecting and esteeming one another. It’s more than words or accolades, it’s a heartfelt conviction that conveys to another that they are valuable and what they have to offer and the role they have in this organization is worthy of respect. Honor is birthed out of an understanding and recognition of the importance of the role each plays in supporting the ministry. And understanding one another cannot happen outside of relationally connecting and communicating with one another.

Sit down over a cup of coffee and talk with one another. Listen to one another. Explain why and how you do what you do in the ministry. Describe the joys and the challenges of your work and the type of questions you must answer to donors, accountants, and board members. Ask questions of each other so that you can understand and honor what each other’s strengths and roles.

Action Item: Who are you going to set up a relational connection time with? Set it up!

3. Reengage

Very little in a growing, dynamic ministry stays the same for long. Even if there have been moments of collaboration and communication, it’s the natural tendency to create our silos once again. Both Development and Finance must intentionally reengage often to adjust plans, modify processes, ask questions, and reinforce goals.

It may be as simple as inviting a person from Finance into Development meetings to hear and respond to a new funding opportunity that has just emerged. It might look like a Development and Finance huddle periodically to report the progress of a current campaign and to discuss any funding or accounting challenges that may require a change in the campaign or accounting process. Or appoint liaisons from Finance and Development to meet periodically to discuss any new plans or issues that need to be addressed and then determine what next steps must be taken.

Consistently reengaging with each other provides an opportunity to build greater collaboration and to avoid miscommunication or noncommunication. The ways to reengage can be as unique as your organization.

Action Item: What is one way that you can reengage and make sure that everyone is on the same page? Schedule it!

4. Celebrate

There is a unifying power that is found in celebrations. Create milestones along the way to achieving goals that both Development and Finance can jointly celebrate. Don’t wait to celebrate only the “big wins.”

Some examples: Gather the Development and Finance teams for cake and ice cream to celebrate the 50% milestone in a current campaign. Huddle the teams together in honoring the “newbie” that has reached a goal, or the accountant that came up with a time-saving procedure. Treat the teams to lunch to celebrate a successful audit, the renewal of ECFA accreditation, or the receipt of an unexpected major gift or the commitment of a new major donor. Celebration draws people together and honors individuals and the team who have contributed to reaching a goal. It reinforces the message that we are in this together.

Action Item: What is one milestone or event that Development and Finance could celebrate in the next 3 months? Plan it!

Remember: A United Team Accomplishes Far More Than a Few Heroes.

Collaboration, honor, re-engagement, and celebration are key pillars of healthy communication in bridging the divide between Development and Finance. Both departments have a part in building that bridge and creating a united team that will advance the mission of the organization and expand God’s Kingdom. Take the lead. Be intentional and begin building that bridge today.


Visit the Knowledge Center at for hundreds of other sample policies and practical resources designed to help your Development and Finance teams thrive!


This text is provided with the understanding that ECFA is not rendering legal, accounting, or other professional advice or service. Professional advice on specific issues should be sought from an accountant, lawyer, or other professional.