Ann Franzenburg

Senior Writer

About Ann

The “Caitlin Clark Effect” has a long reach. I didn’t fully appreciate it until a friend told me that all her 15-year-old grandson wanted for Christmas was a Caitlin Clark jersey. When I expressed my surprise, my friend—a diehard Hawkeye women’s basketball fan and long-standing season-ticket holder—informed me that LOTS of boys and men showed up to watch Caitlin play, sporting her number 22 jersey.

If you don’t follow women’s sports—or sports in general, or you’ve just landed on earth from another solar system, Caitlin Clark is the owner of a long list of records. Most recently, she tossed in a nothing-but-net free throw, surpassing Pistol Pete Maravich’s 54-year-old record to become the all-time leading NCAA Division I scorer. The truly amazing thing about Clark, though, is her unselfish play. She is a great player, and she uses her greatness to lift her entire team. To paraphrase our classic Advancement Resources’ button—it’s not about her. We in advancement can take a few pages out of Clark’s playbook to set some records of our own.

Go for the assist

Not only is Clark a skilled sharpshooter, she is fifth on the all-time list for making assists. When she draws a double- or triple-team of guards on an offensive drive, she does not force a shot. She passes to an unguarded teammate who, more often than not, makes an easy bucket—and sets a few records of their own.

Advancement work is a team sport. Good players don’t hog the ball, and trusted development colleagues don’t “own” donors. When donors show an interest in an area you don’t represent, rather than forcing a philanthropic match, introduce them to colleagues who represent an area that can better serve their philanthropic passions. A contribution of any size to any area of your organization can be tallied in the win column.

Use your deep bench

In keeping with the “It’s All About We” theme—the advancement team encompasses the entire team, from the frontline fundraisers to the administrative assistants. If your whole team is excited about and committed to the work your organization does, anyone can score. We once interviewed a donor who made a significant contribution to a nonprofit. During his daily workout, he often found himself on an adjacent treadmill to the same man. Through casual conversation, the donor learned about the work of the organization and, because of his treadmill neighbor’s enthusiasm, was inspired to learn more. The rest is history, but the footnote to this story is that the man who initially inspired the donor was the organization’s janitor.

Leverage your organization’s “Caitlin Effect”

Clark regularly draws sell-out crowds to watch her play. While some in attendance are long-time women’s sports fans, others are new to the scene. Women’s basketball is exciting to a diverse group of people right now. The same holds true for advancement. If the organizations we work for strive to provide a quality experience for everyone they touch, excitement for what we do can’t help but grow.

A donor and former major gift officer we interviewed put it best: “Broaden your constituent base. That’s a key principle. What I mean by this is you never know. Oftentimes we focus on the current hot player, but you’ve got to focus on the future. It’s the major donor of the future that we have to start cultivating now. The paradox is that we don’t know who that major donor is, so we have to broaden our mindset in terms of who we are going to cultivate. Start cultivating early and cultivate often—and not just the obvious individuals.”

The “we” culture that obviously exists within the University of Iowa women’s basketball program is what not only attracts and keeps superstars like Clark around, but also plays a role in developing the next generation. Peter Drucker wasn’t kidding when he said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” By developing a team culture—one that’s all about “we”—you will ultimately help your organization score philanthropic wins that advance the important work of your organization by creating a workplace that superstars want to call home.