Soccer Star’s 3 Tips will Make You a Champion Fundraiser

As fundraising professionals, we strive to be the most effective we can be. But, what does it take to be better than a good fundraiser? What does it take to be a champion fundraising professional?

To become a champion, it’s wise to seek the advice of champions. Recently, soccer star Carli Lloyd shared three fundamental tips for success with young athletes. Her advice is just as meaningful for fundraisers.

Soccer Ball by Tasayu Tasnaphun via FlickrBefore I share Lloyd’s tips with you, let me highlight why I think it’s worth paying attention to what she has to say. (I also want to point out, for my international readers, that “soccer” is how Americans refer to what you call “football.”

Carli Lloyd is a soccer superstar. She was a member of the US national women’s soccer team that won the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup Championship. In the final FIFA game, Lloyd scored three goals leading Team USA to a 5 – 2 victory over Japan. In addition, Lloyd is a two-time Olympic gold medalist who scored the winning goals in the finals of both the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympic Games.

Lloyd knows what it takes to win. And she recently shared her knowledge with 200 young athletes at the Universal Soccer Academy in Lumberton, NJ where she had trained for a dozen years. Lloyd has taught young girls at the camp on eight occasions.

Here are three of her key tips:

1. “Practice.” Since Lloyd is an Olympic and World Cup champion, you might think she no longer needs to practice hard. After all, she’s already at the top of her game. Well, to get and stay at the top, Lloyd still practices between two and six hours a day to learn new techniques and hone her skills.

Just as there’s no such thing as a natural-born soccer player, there’s no such thing as a natural-born fundraiser. You have to learn the necessary skills, gain experience, and practice what you’ve learned.

Reading professional books, publications, and blogs; participating in webinars, workshops, and conferences; and working with a mentor are just some of the ways fundraisers can build their skills. Writing appeal letters or proposals and having them critiqued by a senior professional is one way to hone your skills. Role-playing a major donor visit is also a great way to enhance your skills before sitting down with an important prospect.

The key to being a champion is to always seek new knowledge and practice your skills no matter how good you are already. You can always improve.

2. “Every game’s hard.” With professional soccer, every opponent is challenging. Each player and, therefore, each team has strengths and weaknesses; good days and bad days; and surprising bursts of excellent performance. If one becomes overconfident, mistakes are more likely and the chance of defeat becomes greater. Recognizing that every game is hard keeps players and teams focused and performing at their peak.

As you gain fundraising experience, it’s easy to become overconfident. It’s easy to write an appeal letter while operating on autopilot. It’s easy to wing-it when meeting with a donor. Doing so might even work some of the time. However, sooner or later, overconfident fundraisers will stumble and achieve less than they could have.

By recognizing that what you do demands your full attention, you’ll be more likely to stay focused on the task at hand. You’ll be more likely to exert your best effort. You’ll be less likely to make foolish mistakes.

3. “It’s all about preparedness.” For Lloyd, everything she does is about being prepared for the next game. Eating right, sleeping enough, practicing regularly, listening to coaches, studying the opposition. It’s all about being prepared so she can do her best.

For fundraising professionals, it’s also all about preparedness. You need to acquire the necessary knowledge, hone your skills, do appropriate research, and a thousand other things to prepare whether drafting an appeal, writing a proposal, getting ready to visit a prospect, etc. The more prepared you are, the more likely you are to be successful.

Now, having said that, I just need to point out that it is possible to over-prepare. How do you know if you’re over-preparing? If preparation work is keeping you from completing the necessary task, then you’re over-preparing. At some point, you need to step onto the field. For more on this, read my post: “Perfect is the Enemy of Good.”

While you can be a good fundraiser without exerting yourself too much, being a champion fundraising professional requires you to act like a champion. It’s not easy, but it can certainly be rewarding for you and your organization.

Okay, maybe soccer isn’t your thing. So, I’ll close with a relevant quote from legendary jazz trumpeter Louis Armstrong:

If I don’t practice for a day, I know it. If I don’t practice for two days, the critics know it. And if I don’t practice for three days, the public knows it.”

I know you work hard, and you’re smart. So, tell me, what are your tips for becoming a fundraising champion or virtuoso?

That’s what Michael Rosen says… What do you say?

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5 Responses to “Soccer Star’s 3 Tips will Make You a Champion Fundraiser”

  1. As always Michael, a great read! Thank you for starting me out on the right foot on this beautiful Friday morning!

  2. Thanks, Michael. I really appreciated the “practice,” tip. Finding time for reading or webinars during the work day may seem like a chore when one is so busy..but the upside is knowing I’ve learned something new to put into play.

    • Connie, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I can never find enough time to read as much as I’d like or participate in all the webinars and seminars I’d like to. I just do the best I can. And I’m grateful to my friends who will point out, from time to time, items I absolutely must read or webinars/seminars I must attend; that helps me prioritize.

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