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?

7 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.

  3. Hi Michael,

    Great article!

    I am new to the professional fundraising world and have read a few of your posts to gain a greater understanding of this industry. I wondered if you could advise which books you would recommend I get to assist me with starting out?



    • Ayisha, thank you for your kind message and inquiry. As you know, there are a vast number of books available on the subject of fundraising and nonprofit management, some better than others. It can be a bit overwhelming. Before I would recommend specific titles to anyone, I would want to know what area of fundraising the person wants to learn about (e.g., annual giving, major gifts, planned giving, foundation giving, prospect research, etc.). I’d also like to know what size organization and what type of nonprofit (e.g., arts, education, social welfare, etc.) the person wants to work for.

      Since I don’t know anything about your unique situation, I’ll share a terrific resource you can use as you consider your own particular interests and needs: The CFRE International Resource Reading List. This curated list of books can be sorted by the following six categories: Current and Prospective Donor Research, Volunteer Involvement, Securing the Gift, Leadership and Management, Relationship Building, Ethics and Accountability. While there are certainly any number of excellent books that do not appear on the List, I think you’ll find it a good place to start.

      I’d also like to suggest that you consider joining your local chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. They offer terrific educational and networking opportunities. Some chapters also provide a formal mentoring program that you might find beneficial. Some chapters also offer a fundamentals of fundraising course that provides a wonderful overview of fundraising geared to those new to the profession or who have limited experience in the field.

      By the way, when trying to find blogs worth following, you can explore a number of the “Best of” blog lists by using the links on the right-hand side of this page.

      Finally, I want to congratulate you on choosing to become part of the fundraising profession. I also thank you for caring enough about the world to take an active part in making it better. Fundraising is a noble profession. While there will certainly be plenty of days full of frustration, I believe you’ll find it to be enormously rewarding overall. I wish you the best!


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