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Fundraising Beyond Rock-Paper-Scissors

rock paper scissors

You may recall how disputes were resolved when we were kids using Rock-Paper-Scissors. This is a zero-sum game to peacefully determine who will prevail when there is conflict and competition. What is great about this method is that each has its power over ONE of the others. Rock prevails over scissors. Scissors prevail over paper. Paper prevails over rock.

I see a corollary to this rudimentary school-yard decision-making process with fundraising management and success:


Beyond the Power Over One

As advancement leaders, we regularly need to balance decisions and define strategies that factor in each of these interdependent, essential elements. I raise this metaphor because it is not enough or wise to make decisions based on only ONE or TWO of these factors. Organizations need to optimize all THREE to succeed.

  • Mission and Vision are vital to attract, motivate and retain Executive and Volunteer Leadership, as well as Donors.
  • Executive and Volunteer Leadership are vital to realize and sustain Mission and Vision, as well as attract Donors and Stakeholders.
  • Donors and Stakeholders are vital to provide the money, access and influence to support the Mission. No money… No mission.

Many organizations, however, lose sight of the importance of this triad of factors. When faced with the urgency to raise significant funds, organizations go with their perceived strengths and hope for the best. This may occur even after commissioning a feasibility study that finds they are lacking one or more of the needed factors for success.

Importance to Major Donor Fundraising

The triad is particularly important when it comes to major donor fundraising. One hand washes the other. A donor’s major gift will be perceived as “secure” for its intended purpose when there is broad support by many other donors. If the organization cannot demonstrate broad donor support and a strong balance sheet, then the major donor will question the voracity of leadership, executive management and mission.

When there is doubt, major donors won’t give.

There are no shortcuts to managing these organizational assets if you want to elevate your organization’s fundraising performance. The sooner you educate your leadership to this reality, the sooner you can move forward putting in place what you need to succeed.

Your takes:

instead of this

  1. When designing and executing your advancement program, extend your thinking and leadership to optimize this triad of factors.
  2. Educate your leaders about the importance of the interdependence of these three factors.
  3. Assist your organization in bolstering and solidifying what is needed to enable you to succeed in building a successful advancement program.


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