Tailgating: A Lesson in Strategic Planning

Over the weekend I had the privilege of tailgating at college football’s number one tailgate destination: The Grove at Ole Miss.

If you know me, you know I take tailgating seriously, even when my team isn’t as committed to its part of the equation as I am to mine. But in Oxford, Mississippi I witnessed another level of serious.

It wasn’t so much the food or the southern hospitality that struck me. It was the planning required to pull it off.

First of all, to tailgate in The Grove you must claim your spot at 7 p.m. on Friday night—in this case, 23.5 hours before kick-off.

Clearly this requires both leadership and planning.

Someone from your group must commit to being at The Grove Friday night to grab your real estate. Someone must transport and unload multiple tents, at least 10 chairs (appeared to be the minimum allowed), at least three 8-foot tables, a satellite dish, a generator, a TV, numerous coolers, food, tablecloths, floral arrangements, etc.

On game day, there are no cars allowed near The Grove so anything you did not bring on Friday night must be (literally) dragged to the tailgate.

When tailgating commences on Saturday there are hours of socializing with family and friends, chance meetings with former classmates or sorority sisters, lots of food, and an endless supply of red cups.

The infectious beat of the drumline and the chant of the cheerleaders draws the crowd to the Walk of Champions to greet the coaches and team – a brief reminder that in a couple of hours there will, in fact, be a football game. Honestly, the game itself feels like an afterthought.

When the final second ticks off the game clock, The Grove and all its tailgating glory must be cleared and vacated within three hours. Everything must be cleaned up, packed up, and carted away.

None of this is possible without a carefully plotted and well-executed strategy. Without a dedicated leader, the required resources, and the team to execute, tailgating in The Grove is a dream without a reality.

This Saturday game plan feels a lot like the work our team does with our nonprofit partners. We know that a vision without a plan is simply a dream, so we coach our partners through a strategic planning process that aligns their resources with their goals, and their goals to metrics that ensure their visions will come to life.

We call it helping nonprofits #DoGreatThings. In The Grove, they call it #HottyToddy. I think everyone should experience both at least one time.

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