In a recent article at GivingUSA.org entitled Take Me Out to the Ballgame!: a Comparison Between Fundraising and Baseball, the authors examine how baseball and fundraising rely on similar tools of the trade to be successful: good data, teamwork, strategy, practice, investments made in players, coaches, equipment and training, and making the right moves based on the environment and how things change during the course of a single game or over an entire season.
The article closed with encouraging words to fundraisers to “work thoughtfully and strategically to get all your donors to hit doubles or triples, and once in a while they may even hit a home run.” That stuck with me. Too often, organizations feel pressure to only focus on big gifts rather than patiently going about the business of getting on base with effective donor engagement and fundraising plans.
Recently I sat in on a board meeting for a nonprofit I have been connected to since its early days. It has been inspiring to watch this organization grow over the past fifteen years from a fledgling start-up into a highly respected, well-run, community-valued, client-centered organization. Leaders built facilities and programming in a strategic way, invested in quality people on their board and in their key staff positions, created effective community engagement plans and inspiring annual campaigns, and were intentional in how they cultivated, solicited, and stewarded their donors, big and small. They have tracked their giving data and used it to continue growing their donor base while also moving capable donors along the path to greater giving. In short, they have been hitting lots of singles, doubles, and triples, with an occasional home run that clears the bases and put more runs on the board (more dollars into the mission).
On the morning of my recent visit, board members were listening in on a Zoom call with a funder that most of them had never met and knew little about. The funder was sharing news that this organization has been selected to receive a significant, multi-year, unrestricted investment to support their work. This gift will allow them to complete a major building initiative and amplify their plans for expanding services to a very deserving community of people over the next several years. They will be able to make deeper investments into their people and programs in a sustainable way.
To draw on my baseball analogy one more time, this is not just a home run, it is a grand slam in the bottom of the ninth inning for this nonprofit organization. A real game-changer for the community they serve. They got here because of their hard work, investments in people and practices that made them stronger, and diligent commitment to their mission, vision, and core values. They took the time to live authentically into a mission that attracts others who want to be part of a special place doing special work.
The real win in this new partnership between funder and nonprofit is that there is no catch. No fine print. No burdensome expectations about reporting out on how the funds are being spent. Instead, the direction from the funder is “Invest in what you believe can have the most impact on your mission. We believe in your direction and want to be your partner because we see that you are doing things the right way. We trust you because your leaders are honest and dedicated to the cause. We will be here as your partner every step of the way.”
Opportunities for nonprofit organizations do not come along like this every day. And they do not come along for organizations that are unwilling to invest in building community support around their mission, unwilling to invest in its people and the tools of the trade that make them sustainable; and unwilling to see their donors as partners in their work.
Nonprofits, philanthropists, and philanthropic organizations of all sizes share a common goal: to improve the lives of people in their community. As we approach the annual celebration of National Philanthropy Day on November 15th, let’s all celebrate the joy of giving that makes all our lives better.