Prospective donors look forward to talking with you. Donors love you. Your colleagues are supportive. Your appeals achieve record success. When everything works the way it should, being a fundraising professional is fulfilling and enormously fun.
Unfortunately, things seldom go completely according to plan. Problems arise. Conflicts simmer. Unexpected events bring new challenges.
So, what can you do to become or remain a champion fundraising professional in the face of anticipated and unanticipated challenges?
The answer: Think like an Olympian.
I enjoy watching the Olympics. I like the competitions, and I like the human-interest stories. We can learn a great deal from Olympic athletes. If you want to be a champion, it’s a good idea to discover what champions do to succeed. For example, let’s look at a story involving Hope Solo, the gold-medal goalkeeper for the USA Women’s Soccer Team.
At the start of the 2016 Rio Olympics, USA faced New Zealand on the soccer field. Whenever the ball came near Solo, Brazilian football fans booed and, at times, chanted “Zika.” According to a report in The Washington Post, Brazil’s football fans were unhappy with Solo’s pre-Olympic comments about Brazil and her concerns about the Zika virus.
Prior to making the trip to South America, Solo took to social media to say she was thinking about not going. Ultimately, she “begrudgingly” announced she would participate in the games, but that she planned on being well armed with mosquito repellent. She also joked that she would bring enough for anyone else in the Olympic Village who might need some.
Solo’s concern is not unjustified. Zika is a serious virus that is transmitted by mosquito. The first major outbreak began in Brazil. In addition to causing other health problems, the virus can cause major birth defects if contracted by a pregnant woman.
Nevertheless, Brazilians were not pleased with Solo’s ongoing commentary about Zika.
So, Solo faced two issues when she took the field against New Zealand:
- She had concerns about being bitten by a disease-carrying mosquito.
- She found herself confronted by thousands of unhappy Brazilians.
How did the American champion respond?
Solo prepared herself. She assessed the health risks by consulting a number of doctors. She learned what she could do to reduce her risk. And, based on that knowledge, she brought plenty of mosquito repellent with her.
Unfortunately, the boos and jeers were unexpected. A lesser athlete might have been upset at being the focus of such anger or might simply have become angry in return. However, Hope Solo is not just any competitor. She’s a proven champion.
Following the game, Solo showed her empathy, “The Brazilians, they love soccer, they love football — it’s part of the culture. They’re having fun.” In other words, she did not take the jeering personally even though it was directed at her. She accepted it as just part of the game. She just shrugged it off.
Solo also showed us something else. She was intensely focused on her mission: stopping the ball and winning. After the game she said, “I was pretty focused on the game. What goes on around me in the stadium, honestly, it doesn’t really matter.”
So, what was the outcome in the match between USA and New Zealand? Team USA won 2-0!
Here is what we can learn from Hope Solo:
- Work to anticipate and assess all challenges and obstacles.
- Prepare yourself to meet the challenges and obstacles, both expected and unexpected.
- When interacting with other people, strive to be empathetic and resist the temptation to take things personally.
- Maintain a laser focus on your organization’s mission and your fundraising objectives.
If you follow Solo’s example, you’ll be a fundraising champion.
For more tips from Carli Lloyd, one of Solo’s teammates, click here.
What helpful tips have you picked up from the sports world?
That’s what Michael Rosen says… What do you say?