I am surrounded by all things World Cup.

Tansley Nemean League

Tansley – Nemean League Champs

My husband is English by birth and played football (soccer) all his life, including semi-pro, until he immigrated to Canada.  He is football mad (in a stiff-upper-lip sort of way). And by far his happiest moment in life was being at Wembley for the win in ’66.

My daughter is working in Brazil, where the Copa Mundial is being played in 12 venues across the country. The entire population is going completely loucoTodo o Brasil celebra.

And although I’m not a massive fan, I’m still hoping Team USA wins because Clint Dempsey and DeAndre Yedlin of Seattle Sounders FC (from my hometown) are playing!

So naturally, I’m thinking about lessons fundraisers can use from the beautiful game.

You’re part of a team. Your team may comprise your area of fundraising, your entire fundraising team, or your nonprofit. And even if you are in a one-person shop, you still have a team – your board, champions and volunteers. A great Fußball team capitalizes on the individual strengths of each player to create a strong, synergistic whole.

Teams become stronger by training together, by putting players in the best positions, by being disciplined (to ensure fewer errors), by keeping focus and by sharing a game plan. Most importantly, they communicate with each other. (Remember that communication isn’t about telling your teammates what to do, it is about listening).

The team has a shared goal. (Or if you prefer a shared GOOOOOOOOAL!) In calcio, that’s pretty obvious – ball in the net. In fundraising, funds raised is an obvious goal, but relationships built is equally important. Thankfully in fundraising you usually have longer than 90 minutes!

Some think this is the best football coach ever.

Some believe Sir Alex Ferguson is the greatest coach ever

Listen to your coach. Your coach may be the Chief Development Officer, the Board Chair, your manager. A coach guides each player to improve individual and team performance. A coach selects players, develops the game plan and observes the play of the team from the sideline. A coach knows the techniques and tactics of footie, seeks new ideas, and makes decisions to create the best team.

Be a team captain (or act like one). The team captain is chosen from among the sakka team members, someone experienced, respected and respectful of his/her teammates.  Different from the coach, the team captain shows important leadership skills on the pitch (field). I talked about how to create a happier work situation in a previous post.

Know the rules and play a clean game. Know the rules of piłka nożna so you don’t commit fouls, make mistakes and lose control of the ball. As important as playing by the rules is playing fair. Don’t be a diver. Signal when you are open for a pass, offer an assist, or be nimble and take that shot on goal. Fundraisers must know the rules and act ethically.

Keep fit, be game ready. For futebol and fundraising, you need agility, speed, stamina, strength and flexibility (especially in fundraising!). And you may need to work on these special “fundraiser” exercises:

–> Work on your Thank You Muscle (located right below your heart). Try daily appreciations (reps are important), and new ways of thanking your donors.

–> Try Wait Lifting. What’s that? Removing all the “waits” your donor is experiencing… Are gift acknowledgements out in 72 hours? Do you write a personal thank you note, send a thank you email or make a thank you call within 24 hours? Tax receipts turned around quickly? And what about stewardship? Find ways to lift and remove all those waits.

Know your stats. Statistics measure 축구 success – the percentage of saves for a goalie, shots on goal for a striker, the number of yellow cards received. Stats reveal the truth and and help you fail fast. Stats help fundraisers know if they are at the top of their game: response rates, click-throughs, cost per dollar raised, proposal submission success, donor moves and the like. (Peter Drury has a great fundraising dashboard you can use.)

Keep an eye on the clock. In ποδόσφαιρο you only have 90 minutes (plus injury time) to get the job done. Some areas of fundraising are time sensitive too!

Know your fans. Fútbol fans are zealous. But there is a mix – you have the loyal season ticket holders (akin to your monthly donors), your single ticket purchasers (like your annual or lower-end givers) and then you have your fans in luxury boxes (similar to your major, corporate or foundation supporters). Your fans boost the energy of the game, help you play your best and provide revenue.

Play your heart out. Be ready to play the game as hard as you can and work with your teammates as seamlessly as possible. As a fundraiser you need to bring your head and your heart to the game. Yes, the turkeys may get you down… things that may take your eye off the goal. But you should, every day, come in ready to do battle against injustice, ready to invite donors and volunteers to make the world a better place.

I really like the video below. If you don’t have 5 minutes to watch, just view the first 73 seconds. Best line: “But there is one more thing. It’s important that you don’t hold back…”

This video shows Brazil, displays the madness and devotion of the fans, illustrates the prep and intensity of the players, reveals the superstitions – everything there is to love about the beautiful game.


Get off the sidelines. Work hard. Participate in the beautiful game of fundraising. 

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