Advanced Fundraising Mnemonics

 A post by James V. Toscano

mne·mon·ics: the process or technique of improving or developing the memory. 

In this outing, we go from alliterative letters, e.g. WWW, PPPP, to catch phrases to capture more complex fundraising concepts. We often use catch phrases to provide the key to lists or formulations, e.g. “”My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas,” gives us the clues we need to list the planets in order from the sun, at least the old order of planets before Pluto got thrown out! 

The Roles of the Board

Prince Paul Favors Fresh Oranges 

There is frequent discussion and debate about what the proper role of a Board is, or should be. There are many sources of prescriptive lists of board functions, e.g. Principles and Practices for Nonprofit Excellence, of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, among the leaders.

The mnemonic device above gives us the essential elements of a board member’s responsibility:

Prince: Planning. Board members are involved in strategic and operational planning, debating final drafts of plans, approving and owning the plans. The Board should review plans annually.

Paul: Policy. The Board sets overall policy and is responsible for its implementation and oversight. It does not interfere in day-to-day operations.

Favors: Finance. The Board approves the budget and receives frequent reports on the operating statement and balance sheet. It is responsible for the overall financial condition of the organization, both revenue and expense.

The Board has responsibility to be prudent and ethical in investments and uses of organizational revenue.

Fresh: Fundraising. Each board member makes a contribution, opens doors to other prospective donors and helps in soliciting contributions. This is clearly the most controversial, although it is essential and needs to be explicitly covered in job descriptions and recruitment before election to the board. (See my previous article.)

Oranges: Oversight.  The Board oversees the operations of the organization, staff performance and outcomes. They appoint, annually review, and at times, remove the executive.  The Board also annually evaluates its own performance. 

Organizational Requisites for Fundraising 

Don Quixote Leads Rocinante and Panza into Adventure, Romance, Chivalry and Ultimate Expiration.

These ten essentials are requisite for an organization to maximize its fundraising performance.

Don: Donor-Centeredness. The donor is what fundraising is all about; it is the congruence of the donor’s values with those of the organization that results in a gift, an exchange of values with both benefitting.

Quixote: Quality. There is no substitute for quality in the organization, its board, staff, operations and results. Moreover, outcomes must demonstrate quality and must continuously improve.

Leads: Leadership. Board, executive and volunteers need to have the vision and courage to step out and actively pursue fulfillment of the mission of the organization, done in myriad of ways, but focused and aimed at the betterment of the organization and its service to society.                                                              

Rocinante: Results.  Organizations must be able to demonstrate successful results of their efforts. Of what specific benefit are they to what elements and areas of society? Do they have convincing stories? Do they have the requisite data that illustrate outcomes, even impact?                        

Panza: Planning. Organizations must have a systematic, long-term methodology to achieve measurable goals and objectives. Whether strategic plan, SWOT analysis or other means, a document against which to measure performance needs to be in place  

Adventure: Articulation of Case. Written, persuasive justification of the case for support is essential to any fundraising efforts. Whether it is the internal case statement, or various case expressions in brochures, proposals, letters, web page content, elevator, dinner party and plane ride speeches, this well-honed, tested material must be front and center.               

Romance: Realism. Organizations must keep their collective feet solidly on the ground, always stretching and achieving, but not striving and straining for untested, unachievable goals. In this instance, ambition and growth are numerators over denominators of patience and realism.                                                       

Chivalry: Constituency. Organizations must have a firm knowledge of their constituency, and their constituency needs to have both knowledge of and trust in the nonprofit.  Shared values, mutual communication and reciprocity are still the best indicators of active constituency status.                                                

Ultimate: Understanding of Roles. Boards, volunteers and staff must all understand their respective roles in fundraising, based on written job descriptions, in-depth training, and, overall, a consensus that development is everyone’s job (See my previous article).      

Expiration: Evaluation.  Systems of evaluation must be in place to continuously monitor, measure and evaluate performance. This is not a static process but a continuous one, rich in both data and analysis, which themselves contribute to not only understanding the effects on society, but also how to improve this performance and to share results to bring them to scale.

Optimization of the Nonprofit 

The above requirements, operationalized and improved upon continuously, will place the nonprofit in the best position to raise funds. While not guaranteeing success, the combination of factors, individuals, institutions and needs, will optimize this ability. While nothing is ever guaranteed, fulfillment of the above ten characteristics will increase the odds of success exponentially.

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