Can Football Teach Us How to be Better Fundraisers?

By: Tim Winkler, Founder and CEO of the Winkler Group

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…college football season. One simple lesson from my own college football days has stuck with me all these years, and it’s one that applies as much to fundraising as it does to football.

One of my teammates had a vintage cotton liner that he wore all the time. I don’t know where he found it, but the words written on it were powerful: Hit. Tackle. Block. I still remember this slogan because of how it simply and accurately described what winning football teams do.

Even to this day, with offenses running sophisticated spread option attacks and wildcat formations, the team that does the best job of hitting, tackling, and blocking is usually the one that wins the game. Of course, there are other factors that determine the outcome, but ultimately winning programs are the ones that do the fundamentals incredibly well. In fact, it’s so straightforward I wonder why we overthink it.

The same principles are true in fundraising. I shudder every time I attend a conference or read an article claiming to share the latest trick to successful fundraising. Somehow this person has uncovered a hidden methodology that will unleash rivers of money flowing into your organization.

It’s just not true.

At the end of the day, successful fundraising revolves around doing the fundamentals of our profession well. When all is said and done, our job as development officers comes down to identifying like-minded individuals who care about our mission, sharing our vision with them, and extending an invitation to be a part of the solution.

Yes, this may be oversimplified. Successful fundraising requires a talented professional with a very specific skill set. However, I see so many organizations chasing their tail, wasting valuable time and resources pursuing the latest gimmicky trend. Donors, and really all people, want to feel like they are a part of something bigger than themselves. That in some way they contribute to the larger good. The work we do provides them with the platform to accomplish such aspirations. And while we always want to be open to try new ideas in our profession, let’s make sure we don’t overthink it.

Hit, Tackle, Block. For us as fundraisers, remember the fundamentals: Mission, Vision, Invitation.

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