Go Sports!

Feb 07, 2024

“What if I tried to put the ball somewhere and you tried to stop me?”  ~Guy who invented sports, probably.

That’s one of my favorite athletic quotes. Clearly, I’m not sporty. Let the record show that I am competitive, just not sporty. Although I may be a bit more up-to-speed on professional athletics than my brain crush, Seth Godin is. He published The Pitfall of Big Game Thinking, another amazing blog post, on February 4th.  

Per ushe, he waxes poetic about the Superb Owl—oh, you know I loved that! The only problem, obviously, is that the Superb Owl wasn’t last weekend. After several faithful readers pointed this fact out, Seth added this PS:

“In a shocking display of my cultural awareness that also reveals how little I care about football, the big game is next week.”


I’m convinced that the lack of football stats from days gone by taking up space in Seth’s brain is exactly how he fits so much genius about marketing in that dome of his. Maybe not being sporty is an asset after all! Whew, I knew it!

HOWEVER, that doesn’t mean that we don’t have a lot to learn from sports. In fact, I once thought that the book I’d write would be about the sport of fundraising. There are so many important lessons that transfer from the field to fundraising. Here are my Top 5.

1. Marketing deserves a bit of moxie. Nonprofit marketers and fundraisers are promoting vital missions. The work you do and the money you raise literally changes lives. Yet, as serious as our work might be, it doesn’t have to be boring. You can have fun at your job and you can jazz up your messages because the very people who open your direct mail are also:

a. Attending football games dressed (or undressed) in wacky costumes

College Fans in Bodypaint - Sports Illustrated

b. Vehemently rooting for (or against) Taylor’s boyfriend’s team from their sofas

13 Ways to Save on Your Super Bowl LIII Party - Elegant Affairs Caterers | New York Caterers ...

c. Spending a couple of Benjamins just to make a football stadium charcuterie board to nibble on between touchdowns.

Easy Football Charcuterie Board Perfect for Game Day - Living Locurto

There is a heap of creativity that comes with actions like that. Actions that adults are freely taking because even grown-ups like to whoop and holler and have a bit of fun. So, no, your direct mail pieces don’t have to be as dry as the side of Saltines that goes with Uncle Charlie’s five-alarm chili that he likes calls Spice, Spice Baby.  Lighten up, the fans demand it.

2. Sports prove that sonder is real. Remember when I wrote about the term sonder? That profound feeling of realizing that everyone, including strangers passing in the street, has a life as complex as one's own, which they are constantly living despite one's personal lack of awareness of it. 

One thing I do like about sports is the backstories. Even though an NFL player might be making movie-star money, many of them started out just like you and me—that’s easy to forget. Many of them come from pasts filled with scrappiness and grit. I love the classic story where the rookie pays off his parent’s mortgage because of the sacrifices they made so he could play ball. Can we all just agree that if future hall-of-famers have complex lives that our donors do, too. And if that’s the case, isn’t it our job to get to know them better, learn those stories, and build those relationships? If your relationships are strong, your fundraising game will be, too.

Happy Father's Day: Current and former Broncos players and coaches and their children

3. It’s always about the fundamentals. If you’ve ever watched a sportsy movie like Hoosiers, Field of Dreams, or Jerry McGuire, you always hear them talk about the fundamentals. For example, famous basketball coach, John Wooden, never started his players with defense or even layups—he started at the bottom, literally. You can’t get much lower than a 7 foot basketball player’s feet!

His fundamentals started like this:

-- Pull up your socks so there no loose flaps inside the sneakers that might cause a game-missing blister.

--  Grab your shoelaces and pull them up nice and even, then tight your shoes super tight in order to prevent a sprained ankle.

-- Tuck in your shirt—look respectable.

-- Get a haircut. Nice try, go get another haircut.

Jerry Maguire Quotes - Top Jerry Maguire Movie Quotes

These are the first fundamentals that led to Wooden winning 10 championships in 12 years at U.C.L.A. So, when it comes to fundamentals…don’t skimp.

-- When it comes to fundraising, thank before you bank—donors deserve their tax-receipts and thank you notes immediately.

-- Sign your letters, maybe even add a small note—your donors wrote you a check, the least you can do is sign your own name.

-- Pick up the phone—a verbal thank-you, even left as a voicemail, is meaningful (just ask data guru Penelope Burke).

Thank before you bank! | Hagler Financial Services / NWF Advisory Group

4. Execution is nothing without passion. While the mechanics of the sport are necessary to play the game, passion wins Super Bowls. It’s very much like left brain marketing methods and right brain marketing moxie. Both are good independently, but together they’re magic!

If you’ve lost that lovin’ feelin’ like Maverick and Goose sang about in Top Gun, your donors will be able to tell. Your passion fuels you and helps you execute your marketing and stewardship plans efficiently and effectively, but your passion is your super power.

"Maverick and Goose - You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" Sticker for Sale by pohjanneito | Redbubble

5. There’s a fine line between fans and fanatics. Fans are known to make some noise! Even in the darkest days of no World Series win, the Cubs fans were dedicated. They never lost hope that it would happen, even if it was a 108-year slog. Now that’s dedication.

You can do that, too. Create some fans that will be with you during the ups and downs of life working for a nonprofit. Get them to buy the t-shirts, talk about you when they’re with their friends, and read about you in the newspaper. Fans beget other fans and that’s the secondary marketing team that small nonprofits need. Get ya some fanatic fans!

Pin on body art all

 See, even a non-athletic gal like me can learn a thing or two from sports-ball. After all, sports are a multi-bazillion dollar industry that drives school calendars, Sunday dinners, and apparently Taylor Swift’s social calendar—that’s powerful. That’s why some say sports have the ability to change the world. While I guess that could be true, I think you and I have a better chance--one person at a time in our little corners of the world. So, get back to it; you’ve got some charitable touchdowns to make in your own nonprofit Super Bowl and those you serve are counting on you putting some monetary points on the Jumbotron. In the meantime, in honor of the actual Super Bowl, I hope your team puts the ball somewhere more times than the other team stops them.

Go sports,

[email protected]
dawn brown creative, llc. 

P.S. Fundraising is hard, even though you make it look
oh-so easy! ♥

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