For many of us, it’s our favorite time of year: the start of Major League Baseball spring training. Time to head off to the Cactus League in Phoenix and leave the cold behind. It’s also a great time to think about what nonprofits can learn from spring training and how we can help them apply those lessons to their organizations. Here are four tips from America’s pastime:
Don’t ignore the players with no names on the backs of their jerseys
Every year, there are ball players from the minor leagues and non-roster invitees who play in spring training games. When they get into the games in the late innings, they usually have high numbers on their jerseys (80s & 90s) and no names on the back. These are the guys who usually get ignored by the autograph seekers. However, a few years from now, some of those guys become stars.
Nonprofits, take heed. Are you ignoring the no-name followers on your social media? When was the last time you gave a birthday shout out to a follower, even if she didn’t donate much last year? When was the last time you retweeted an accomplishment by one of your followers? Cultivating donors and volunteers from the mass of your followers takes a long commitment to post content and build relationships. And the unexpected shout out makes people feel appreciated. It’s up to you to turn the no-name players into stars.
Train to reign
This year you see a lot of players wearing the slogan “Train to Reign” around Spring Training. Baseball teams know that this is the time you set good habits, establish the game plan and philosophy of the organization, and expose players to the best possible skills training in a short intensive period.
Are you investing in training for your team? How are you building social media skills, an understanding of online advertising, and search engine mastery? Most nonprofits realize the bulk of their donations during the 4th quarter of the year. That means this is planning and training time. Invest in training now. Reign in October, November, and December.
Focus on the fundamentals
Teams have only six weeks to prepare for the regular season. So, they make sure their players are fundamentally sound before being sent off to play in the majors or minors. To quote a famous line from the film Bull Durham, “This is a very simple game. You throw the ball. You catch the ball. You hit the ball.”
Does your organization need to revisit the fundamentals of digital fundraising? Are you capturing increasing levels of permission (from fan to follower to email subscriber to donor/volunteer)? Are you posting regular content that is visually appealing and relevant to your audience? Are you gathering information on your email subscribers and segmenting them in ways that will help you deliver relevant emails that actually get opened? Are you using data to inform your decisions or just posting your next event? And finally, are you broadcasting or having a conversation with your followers?
It’s all about the fans – and their philanthropic goals
Spring training is all about the fans. The atmosphere is relaxed and the pressure is lower. Players take the time to sign autographs and even sometimes will chat with fans. It’s a good reminder that without the fans, there would be no big contracts, no TV deals, and no jobs playing baseball.
Nonprofits should also remember to praise their fans and followers. Too many times nonprofits fall into the trap of using this phrase “we need…” Resist the temptation to use that phrase in your blog posts, status updates or tweets. Sure, there is a community need you are trying to address (veteran support, homelessness, poverty, disease, etc.). And yes, it takes resources to address that need, but think about a bigger purpose: you’re inviting donors and volunteers to fulfill their philanthropic desires. Make it about the good they can do through your organization, NOT the good your organization can do with their money. Social is a great place to do this, because the messages can be seen by many and shared easily.
Spring training can be a great time of year for your organization too. So, look for ways to give seemingly anonymous followers a chance to shine. Revisit the fundamentals and invest in your staff’s continuing education. Most importantly, don’t forget that it’s all about your followers/fans/donors/volunteers. So, illuminate how they are doing good through your organization. And finally, get out there and train to reign!