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Ask The Professor: I'm putting together our nonprofit's first PR plan. I know about the RACE formula for structuring a program, but I need help filling in the blanks, inasmuch as we're concerned with fund-raising activities.


Publication Date: 6/2002

Source: SO01 Public Relations Tactics
Product Code: 6C-060226
Organization/Author/Firm: Bill Adams, APR, Fellow PRSA
Industry: Associations - Nonprofits
Specialization(s): Development - Fund Raising / Strategic Planning
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Summary

Q: I'm putting together our nonprofit's first PR plan. I know about the RACE formula for structuring a program, but I need help filling in the blanks, inasmuch as we're concerned with fund-raising activities.

A: Nonprofit, for-profit, fund-raisers or fund distributors, whatever the organization's focus or mission, it all comes down to building and maintaining relationships. And a plan for any organization, even fund-raisers, should still follow a process, such as J.E. Marston's ubiquitous RACE formula you allude to (Research, Action Plan, Communication and Evaluation), touted by almost every PR textbook in the past 50 years, or the ROPE process (Research, Objectives, Programming, Evaluation) or any of a number of other additions to the process lexicon.

However, if you were to ask Kathleen Kelly, APR, Fellow PRSA, you might find that - for nonprofits, at least - these traditional process formulae are inadequate. Kelly, coordinator of the PR program at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, has penned two books on the subject and thinks there's something lacking in the old four-step RACE or ROPE formulae when it comes to fund raising. She opts for expanding ROPE to ROPES and adding Stewardship. Kelly says a basic law of fund raising is: "The best prospects are previous donors" and cites research that claims "Stewardship requires us to thank donors who have made gifts and establishes the means for continued communication that will help preserve their interest and attention to the organization." In other words, fund-raising managers should be maintaining relationships.

Returning to your question, let's look at what you might include in the first four stages of the ROPE process and add Kelly's fifth step:
o Research. "Without solid research, public relations is reduced to flackery," Kelly writes. You must do research on your organization, its history, finances, personnel, products and services, including past public relations activities.
o Objectives. These result from organizational goals or mission statements and are based on your research. These objectives should be "specific statements that express results as measurable outcomes," Kelly says. Forget the nebulous "to educate or inform" and go for concrete objectives, such as "to raise 20 percent more funds in 2003" (impact), or "to print 12 donor newsletters in 2003" (output).
o Programming. In the model, this is where planning, budgeting and implementing (communicating) take place. Create realistic, doable plans and budgets and implement those well-honed writing skills.
o Evaluation. This often-overlooked process segment allows you to measure your success or failures through a look back at your stated goals and objectives. It's actually the Research phase repeated, and gives you leverage when the CEO asks, "How do you know?" or "How did we do?" By listening to publics through evaluative research, Kelly says, "practitioners engage in two-way communication...."
o Stewardship. Kelly's fifth step in the "new millennium" ROPES process involves "being attentive to every aspect of the organization's behavior that might affect relations with supportive publics." She warns, however, that "others in the organization must be as concerned with stewardship as the public relations department," which is something the savvy practitioner must facilitate.

Need advice? Ask Florida International University Professor Bill Adams, APR, Fellow PRSA. Prior to joining FIU, Adams worked 25 years in corporate public relations. His e-mail address is prprof@aol.com