In 1998 in Nagano, Japan, the eyes of the world were on 15-year-old figure skater Tara Lipinski as she entered her long program skate at the Winter Olympics. She was in second place in the ladies singles event entering the program, and the first-place athlete, Michele Kwan, had already skated a strong program. In a moment that would become legendary, Lipinski completed a historic performance that launched her into first place and secured the gold medal. Chances are, you remember watching the moment when Lipinski finished her program and celebrated on the ice, seemingly already aware that she had achieved her dream.

The Olympic Games have a way of moving us. They unite us in rooting for the athletes who have worked for years to achieve excellence and accomplish amazing feats. This fact is unsurprising when we consider that people share a human need to be associated with respected people doing important work. When we see someone we admire achieving excellence, we are eager to be a part of it.

What do the Olympics have to do with athletics fundraising? It’s an excellent example of the power of athletics to unite and inspire an audience. At your own university or college, student-athletes regularly push themselves to the max, reach new heights, and score important victories—both in personal goals and in competition. As the lasting popularity of the Olympics indicates, audiences are eager to be inspired by athletics. The question is, does your organization maximize the opportunity to inspire supporters?

Here are three steps to drive inspiration among your organization’s own donors:

1. Make it personal

Individual stories are the fuel that feeds the fire of enthusiasm for athletics. Stories resonate with us and give us somebody to identify with and root for. Athletes who have overcome adversity, teams that have banded together to support charitable causes, and even special moments with fans are all inspirational, personal moments that should be shared. Achievements are great, but think beyond them to the personal connections, and you will truly inspire donors.

2. Make it timely

After the Olympics, a wave of promotions and endorsements keeps the athletes we rooted for in our minds for months. But after a year has passed, people are less likely to feel the same interest in those individuals. The key is momentum: Capitalize on recent achievements, particularly ones that can be captured on video and shared. Don’t let the enthusiasm wane without inviting donors and fans to join the team.

3. Make it meaningful

A team or individual win is great, but that isn’t the only thing that inspires us. Sometimes, a “losing” effort can be inspirational when it is coupled with a meaningful message. Identify what your athletics program is doing that would make it meaningful to the collective consciousness of donors and fans. Also be cognizant of the personal stories of the donors you work with, keeping in mind that different donors ascribe meaning in different ways.

Contact us to more about how your organization can maximize its impact in athletics fundraising.


Let’s talk!