In Football and Fundraising, Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing!
For us University of Georgia alumni and other Bulldog fans, Monday was an exciting night.
The Georgia Bulldogs defeated Oklahoma Sooners in double overtime and are now headed to next week’s national championship game in Atlanta, Ga.
One of my favorite Bedrocks & Beacons blogs is about the ways football and fundraising are similar. It was born out of a talk to a college course on higher education fundraising, where my main challenge was keeping the attention of the class the Monday after the famous Georgia-Florida game.
One of these similarities is the power of focus.
After defeating the Auburn Tigers (following a previous loss to them), Coach Kirby Smart expressed his gratitude to be in the championship process and thanked his seniors—several of whom could have left after their junior year for the NFL draft.
Then he shared the secret to the win: composure and physicality.
“We like to keep it simple,” he said.
When asked what made the difference between the winning and losing games, senior linebacker Roquan Smith shared, “Coach preached all week: ‘Just keep your composure.’”
The week after losing 40–17 to Auburn, Georgia players heard the same message everywhere—from the training table, to the weight room, to the study hall: “The season isn’t over. All of your goals remain in front of you. Winning the next game is all that matters.”
All of Coach Smart’s department heads were told to ensure that every athletics department employee who interacted with the players knew what to say. No one was to dwell on the defeat in their presence.
“What’s really been important in the success of the places I’ve been is that the message came clear and direct and everybody understood that,” Smart said.
Georgia closed the season with three straight wins and a 13-1 record.
This focus, well, it worked. We all know the power of focus—what happens when you close the door and concentrate for a block of time on your most important task. It can be magical. Just look at how much work you can get done on the day before an extended vacation.
At Lighthouse Counsel, we love creating the right strategy for a client. It makes a huge difference. Every project, every organization, every campaign is unique and requires a personalized approach and strategy, undergirded by proven best practices and an understanding of where the organization is and where it wants to go.
But nothing beats a laser focus on your goals, on your plan and on executing it.
We’ve never had a client follow our advice and not be successful. We have had a few clients veer from our advice, where it was almost a daily battle to bring them back to center and have them follow what works. That’s life, and just like in football, you’ll have noisy fans, critics who never were paid to coach and most of whom never played at the highest levels—all considering themselves “experts.”
The discipline of focus is not only a gift to your organization; it’s also a gift to our profession. It helps eliminate sloppy fundraising and illustrates that there is a skillset, a body of knowledge, proven best practices that comprise our noble profession.
After the win against Oklahoma, Coach Smart spoke about “the importance of keeping the main thing the main thing.”
What did his star linebackers share?
“You know, that game happened. There was a lot of excitement and what not,” Smith said. “But we just have to shift our focus back, because the main thing is to win the national championship. We know if we’re not honed in and doing everything in our power to prepare ourselves for that game, then we know we’d be shorting ourselves.”
So, in football and in fundraising, be focused and keep the main thing the main thing!
Looking for Jeff? You'll find him either on the lake, laughing with good friends, or helping nonprofits develop to their full potential.
Jeff believes that successful fundraising is built on a bedrock of relevant, consistent messaging; sound practices; the nurturing of relationships; and impeccable stewardship. And that organizations that adhere to those standards serve as beacons to others that aspire to them. The Bedrocks & Beacons blog will provide strategic information to help nonprofits be both.
Jeff has more than 25 years of nonprofit leadership experience and is a member of the NonProfit PRO Editorial Advisory Board.