In a recent interview regarding our company’s annual State of Philanthropy study (in which Americans say they will be pulling back on giving in 2013), I was asked what charities can do as they face the strong headwinds of a struggling economy. My answer was the same as it has been since the Global Financial Crisis erupted in 2008:
Focus on executing the fundamentals well.
The legendary football coach Vince Lombardi was a firm believer that winning teams were the best at doing the fundamentals well. In fact, he would begin each season by pulling the team together, holding up a football, and saying, “Gentlemen, this is a football.” He would then go on to talk the team through the fundamentals of the game, even taking them out on the field to talk about the boundaries, the end zone, and that the goal was to get the football into the end zone.
Pretty basic stuff, especially for professional athletes who had played the game for years and were the best of the best. But Coach Lombardi’s instincts proved to be right. Over his nine years of coaching the Green Bay Packers, his team only finished third once (his first year), and took home a championship five times. In fact, his 1966 team won the first Super Bowl, thrashing the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10.
It’s all about the fundamentals. And so it is with successful fundraising.
Successful fundraising comes from consistently executing the fundamentals well.
Those fundamentals begin with an understanding of what makes up a growing – and “championship” – fundraising program:
- The acquisition of new donors
- The conversion of those donors to ongoing supporters
- The cultivation of the supporters in order to retain them over years
- Re-acquiring those donors who have not given recently
Now, you may be saying, “Tell me something I don’t know.” And you’re right. These fundamentals are pretty basic. But if you’re like most fundraisers, I’ll bet you aren’t doing one of these (or a multiple of these) well. Or at all.
The next few blog posts are going to be my “Gentlemen, this is a football” speech, walking you through the fundamentals of each of those critical areas of a healthy fundraising program. I hope it will help you put into practice the basics in such a way that you’ll have a winning season in 2013!