What Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson Can Teach Us About Fundraising

Whether you love NFL football or don’t care a fig, you’ve probably at least heard of veteran quarterback Peyton Manning and second-year quarterback Russell Wilson. Respectively, they led the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks to yesterday’s Super Bowl XLVIII (Seattle won).

Here are 4 tactics practiced by one or both of these players that can teach fundraisers—and a bunch of other folks—how to approach projects, work, and life.

1.  Always prepare

Despite his 16 seasons in the NFL, Peyton Manning still studies the playbook, analyzes his opponents, and practices his craft week-after-week. Manning knows that every game is different and he doesn’t take winning for granted.

As a fundraiser, no matter how much experience you might have, it’s critical to prepare. Whether you’re writing a grant, raising funds for a special event, or scheduling a major donor meeting, do your homework and strategize your best approach. Read my previous post on preparing for a major donor meeting.

2.  Try new things

Russell Wilson has been called the Houdini of quarterbacks. He doesn’t just throw passes from the pocket. Wilson does whatever it takes to make a play, whether it’s escaping the pocket before a pass or running the ball himself. He works his agility, youth, and athleticism to his advantage, trying things other quarterbacks don’t even attempt. The payoff for Wilson is big!

Whether you’ve worked in fundraising for years or are just starting out, try looking at your own challenges from a new angle. We can all learn something new.

If you are a young development professional, you may be way ahead of many fundraising veterans in your grasp of social media and how to attract donors online. Yes, you can learn from the experts, but don’t be afraid to try new tactics to connect with your donors.

3.  Recognize your team

Despite their star power, neither Manning nor Wilson ever claims sole credit for a win. Rather, they consistently recognize the contributions of their teammates.

None of us can do this work on our own. Any fundraising “win” is the result of the good ideas, positive energy and consistent efforts of your fellow staff members, dedicated volunteers, and other key contributors. Be sure to recognize the contributions of others, including those outside of the development department, such as program staff, finance, evaluation, etc. For ideas, check out this Slideshare presentation on how to recognize colleagues in the workplace.

4.  Face “losses” with grace and learn from your mistakes

Manning and Wilson are class acts. They take responsibility as team leaders, acknowledge any mistakes, and focus on the next game opportunity. After losing a game, you will never hear them whine, complain or blame others.

As a fundraiser, you will hear “no” more often than you would like. Not all donors will align with your organization’s mission. Rather than blaming yourself or others, turn a donor’s “no” into an opportunity to assess your own preparation and how you ask for a gift. Talk with your team about ways to improve for next time. See Marc Pitman’s list of 5 things NOT to do at a major gift solicitation for some basics.

Opportunities abound to learn from those around you! Be willing to try new things and do what it takes to prepare for the challenge at hand and raise more money.

What challenges are you facing and how will you work through them?

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