As public figures at their university, coaches and athletics directors have unique opportunities to touch the lives not only of students, but of fans and community members. When fans rally behind a team or individual athlete, they are indicating their desire for connection. It is a natural human impulse to want to be involved with respected people doing important work—and to fans of our athletics teams, that category can include admired coaches and players.

As they interact with fans, coaches are uniquely positioned to connect individuals who show an interest in philanthropy. However, sometimes coaches are uncertain what to listen for or what steps to take if a fan wishes to become more involved. These three tips can help coaches leverage this opportunity, creating space for fans to make a difference in a way that’s meaningful to them, and ultimately enabling continued excellence and impact in the lives of student-athletes.

Three Tips Coaches Should Know

1. Be open to engagement

This doesn’t mean coaches have to listen to everybody’s suggestions about how to run their teams or spill all their strategic secrets so fans know exactly what’s happening. Instead, this step is about being present and open to opportunities. In order to attract philanthropic dollars, coaches should be prepared to share the inspiring vision for their work everywhere, with everyone. Donors give where they feel involved. Help people feel like part of the team by being present and making the philanthropic mission known.

2. Listen differently

At most athletics programs, it is more likely that the coach’s development partner will identify potential donors and bring them to the coach than the other way around. The opportunity to find new donors among the coach’s own network of players’ parents, alumni, and fans is often missed. Coaches can turn this pattern around by listening differently. Here are a few tactics coaches have shared with us:

        • Encourage stories of what makes athletics meaningful to them.
        • Pay attention to questions related to needs of student-athletes or team needs.
        • Use negative feedback as an opportunity to mention how philanthropy could help.

3. Respond and refer

When coaches hear something that signifies an interest in philanthropy, do they know how to respond? Coaches you work with should be ready with an answer for anybody who might express interest in joining the team. Some simple language suggestions can make a big difference in helping them get comfortable talking to fans about philanthropy. One easy way to answer is, “That’s wonderful that you’d like to get involved, and there are lots of ways you can help. My colleague, Jenny, is the perfect person to help us discuss this further. Would you like me to arrange a meeting for us?”

Being a part of the team is a great feeling. When coaches facilitate a connection with fans, parents, alumni, and others, everybody wins. Are your coaches prepared to maximize their conversations?


Learn more about creating a culture of philanthropy that includes athletics fundraising.