Good Fundraisers Are Like Baseball Players

I love summer because it’s baseball season. Long summer nights, pitching duels, hitting streaks, and slumps, the rookie who hits a home run at his first at-bat, the journeyman finally finding his team and having a breakout season.

Baseball games are long and baseball seasons are longer. The focus and sustained drive players and teams need to stay competitive over that amount of time reminds me of another profession – fundraising.

Think about it:

In baseball and in fundraising you fail more than you succeed

In my lifetime, I’ve never seen a player have a higher batting average than .394 (Tony Gwynn in 1994), meaning for every ten at bats, he only got a hit about FOUR times. And he’s the best hitter since 1994!

In fundraising, we get used to no’s, maybes, and I’ll-think-about-its. But even more than accepting striking out, we must take more at-bats. There is not one single organization that I’ve talked to whose fundraising wouldn’t improve immediately if they built more relationships and made more asks.

You must do your research

Prior to the game, players spend hours watching tapes of their opponents. Last season, the Astros and the Dodgers players kept laminated cards in their back pockets. On the cards were details on where to stand and how to play each batter. Both teams made it to the World Series.

In fundraising that research can make all the difference too. We can’t watch tape of a prospect or look at stats before a meeting, but we can talk to the board member that made the introduction, look for news articles, and find social media pages for our prospects. All of this is important data that can tell us what a person really cares about, what type of pitch they like, and where they want to run (in life).

Small moves win the game

You don’t have to hit home runs to win a game. Don’t get me wrong, home runs are great and exciting, and I dream of catching one in the stands. But more often than not, games are won with small moves around the bases. One guy gets a single. The next guy walks. The next guy strikes out. Then your team finally scores a run when the next guy hits a double.

And in fundraising, you rarely have just one interaction with someone before they make a sizable donation. A more likely scenario is a donor that comes to an event, makes a small donation, reads a newsletter, and then, hopefully, is asked to be more involved. It’s these small moves that pay off.

It’s a team effort

Just as runners advance through the efforts of teammates, the whole game cannot be won with one superstar player. The pitcher must make the right pitch, the outfielders must be in the right places, and the team must work together. Part of the catcher’s job is to “call the game” by giving signals to the pitcher about what to throw, signaling to outfielders to shift their positions, and talking to a pitcher if they start to lose focus.

Development Directors, you’re the catcher. You have a view of the whole game. It’s not possible for you to get all the hits and make all the outs. You must have your board, executive team, program staff, and development team all on the same page. You must prep your teammates and point them in the right direction.

That’s how you win.