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Your Guide to Managing a Fantasy Fundraising Team

Tonight, the NFL season kicks off. Which means, for the next 18 weeks, I get to suck at managing 3 Fantasy Football Teams and basically give away my entry fee money to other people.

I’m like a philanthropist, but with a horrible habit I can’t seem to quit. And there isn’t the equivalent of a methadone clinic for this type of extra curricular activity.

Trust me, I’ve looked into it.

However, because I have unrealistic optimism about all things, and have a penchant for turning any ol’ situation in life into a fundraising and nonprofit analogy, the more I think about drafting a team of outstandingly talented humans to assemble a team to do good, and ultimately produce wins that lead to money…well, isn’t that what we all want to do as leaders at our organizations?

There are a lot of people who play this across the globe.

And for all the “experts” out there, you’re really just an injury, suspension or toxic team culture away from being obliterated in points every week.

Yes, it’s generally luck and random and unanticipated ideal matchups that win the day, but generally speaking there is a bit of strategy that goes into the perfect mixed cocktail of a winning fantasy team.

None of which I follow, or adhere to.

Which is why I’m horrible at it.

However, those that can’t do, teach as the old saying goes.

So, join me as I describe in way too much detail, my best practices for building a Fantasy Fundraising team…using all the tactics I don’t use myself in building a Fantasy Football Team.

Let’s learn together, shall we?

1. The Workhorse

If you watch any show on ESPN 2, ESPN 3, ESPN The Ochco, or read any article on fantasy football, you know that drafting a running back early is the key to winning your league. A guy who’s gonna grind out yards, and just consistently, week after week, produce points for your team to lean on.

Also, it’s the same guy who, if he shatters his leg, you scream out loud at your phone when the breaking news (pun intended!) says he’ll be out 6-8 weeks and you look at your roster, and it’s filled with athletes you’re not quite sure will be even playing during that time, then you throw you phone in disgust and get ready to trade away all your other good players because what’s the point, Tim is just gonna win the thing again, and you still have to field a squad of nobodys for the next 3 months.

But it does serve up two great points:

A. Get your fundraising team a workhorse. Someone who has that ability to pound phones and connect with donors and reach out to those who haven’t been spoken to in a really long time and who can focus through days at a time to accomplish those big hairy audacious benchmarks you set for yourself.

B. Make sure they are taken care of mentally. Because if they have no support, and they are on an island within your organization (either a volunteer, or yourself!) and they burn out and need a break (or worse, quit) you’re in a terrible position to recover.

Those that we lean on need someone to lean on. Fundraising is a team effort, so care for those rock stars of yours.

2. The Rookie

There’s great hype in the off season with delightful anticipation on who the next breakout star is going to be. Those highly drafted college kids now get to play with grown ass adults who want nothing more than to humble them right out of the gate, and we as managers (yes I used the term because we both DRAFT AND SET lineups. It’s very stressful and important) see future hall-of-famers, that we get to watch in real time become football demigods.

So when it comes to selecting someone for your fantasy team, you’re imagining when their real-life coach will think “Hey kid. You’re time has come. Get out there and show us what you got…’cause we’re playing the Jaguars, and they are horrible, and it gives you the best chance of doing awesome.”

And when hiring in the nonprofit world – we really should be looking for talent in places that we don’t traditionally look for the future fundraising leaders.

No, you don’t need a CFRE certificate to be a great fundraiser. In fact, CLICK HERE for a delightful quick talk I did on that whole topic.

Rather your team should be looking for storytellers, personable and relatable humans with a compelling ability to connect with an eclectic group of individuals. Look for folks who are able to wear 10,000 different hats, and with a bit of support, manage expectations from numerous folks.

Try the service industry or outside sales.

You can teach fundraising, but you can’t teach personality.

Find your rookies with great potential in places where they’ve been forged well to deal with people.

3. The Guy Who’s Suspended But Have High Hopes

Listen, sometime in the 6th round of a draft, you get a little lightheaded from all the names you DON’T recognize OR from the 9th Coors Light you have consumed at your draft party. You look around the room and think “Oh man, everyone else here seems so confident in knowing who everyone is…I’m just guessing at this point.”

You’d be wrong of course. NO ONE knows anyone of value at this point, so it’s best just to project and pretend.

But then, you see a name you recognize who clearly made headlines for some sort of horrific scandal and is not expected to be let back in the league until way late in the year, or is appealing a suspension and you think “Oh, I’ll just pick him up and wait to see if he becomes a better person.”

Don’t. It’s a trap. They aren’t going to become a better person.

Just like that one donor who is unsavory, or speaks poorly about other organizations in town, or has a reputation of not respecting women who visit him to solicit gifts, or the individual who just morally doesn’t fit with your mission.

It’s not worth chasing after bad money. Or bad people.

This is where your abundance mindset is put to the test. It’s easy to stand tall on your principles when times are flourishing, but when the coffers are a little tight, and money gets waved at you from folks who don’t align with the good you do, it’s hard to walk away from the potential.

But avoid trading your values for cash. The fallout, and general gross feeling you’ll get, isn’t worth it.

4. The Kicker

Somewhere during the last few rounds of the draft, you’ll realize that you have to pick up a Kicker. A guy, who’s only job is to make field goals.

You can usually get them for nearly nothing, and they sit towards the bottom of your team roster.

And you typically don’t pay much attention to them.

And everyone laughs when you draft them in higher rounds.

And everyone gets mad when that guy you drafted is the reason you team wins because of their consistency and general awesomeness.

He’s the admin on your team, and might the most valuable, least praised individual you have.

Like the real admins in your office – the quiet doers and productivity rock stars are the backbone to your fundraising team. From organizing your chaotic creative brains into reports you can actually present to a board member or use to thoughtfully and methodically plot donor meetings and priorities, they play an absolute critical roles in your success.

I see you, head-down kick ass humans. I know that you might not want the spotlight, or find content in not taking work home with you at the end of the day. I feel your silent stress level with the amount of work the development team puts on your desk and expects done in a timeframe that is wholly unrealistic.

Yet you accomplish it. Like a boss. Because you’re amazing.

A great fundraising team is only as good as the folks who are holding it all together…which are the keepers of the information, rolodex, and email lists.

They might not have a sexy title, or are noticed and recognized as much as they should…but they might just win you a championship.

Here’s to another Fantasy Football season gang!

I’ll make sure to update my horrible draft decisions as soon as I realize it’s a doomed effort. So…say, like in 3 weeks.




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