My son, Christopher, a sophomore at Oak Park River Forest High School, is in his second year on the school’s water polo team. Chris has been a competitive swimmer since he was six years old, when Elizabeth and I enrolled him in the famous Dynamo Swim Program in Atlanta, where we were living at the time. He continued to swim during elementary and middle school on the local YMCA team, as did his sister, Cameron, who was captain of the girls swim team at Oak Park High School this past season. We think that swimming is a great sport for kids, as it teaches them discipline and self-motivation. What you don’t learn in swimming, however, is team work.
That’s where water polo comes in. One of the best things about the sport is that you must work with your teammates to be successful. It really is the ultimate team sport. In fact, the thing that the boys practice the most is passing the ball. Imagine–a sport where passing to your teammates is so essential, so fundamental–that you practice it before every game. I love the fact that Chris is learning to pass the ball in water polo–and I’m hopeful this will help him become a better team player in life.
I think fundraising is a team sport as well. I cringe when I hear a development officer talk about all of the money that he or she has raised. While it is true that building relationships and working with donors helps to move the fundraising process along, I also believe that individuals give because of the value of the institution that they are supporting. It’s not how much money you have raised, it’s how much money the organization has raised. At least that’s how I see it.
Successful development offices are built around the team concept. The team works together to build and implement the fundraising plan and understands each team-member’s role in making the plan a success. Communication among teammates is extensive, and each member of the team is kept abreast of activities. Invariable course corrections to the plan are discussed and debated by the team before actions occur.
If you are working in a development office, you have to learn to work with the team. Like Christopher, you need to work on passing the ball. By doing so, you will be more effective in your fundraising activities.