Another episode of Oprah’s Big Give.

I’ve watched all three episodes in three different ways:

  1. via recording on my DVR
  2. on TV like I did in the 1990’s 😉
  3. on abc.com!

Who knew TV shows could be so adaptable to technology?

This week’s program brought out two interesting themes: creative engagement of donors and the dangers of self-absorption. I’m going to assume you’ve seen the episode. If you haven’t, you can see the full show at Oprah’s Big Give.

Team Field of Dreams had no team work but an incredibly engaged volunteer: Andre Agassi. He was professional, entreprenurial, and a complete gentleman. And a darn good fundraiser. I’m not sure if he sensed the disorganization of the team or not, but he came in with ideas, connections, and a plan. And he got the job done.

I left this episode hoping to be like him when I grow up.

Team Forgotten Christmas had a great team. They worked really well together.

But they hardly engaged Tony Hawks. Granted, a skating crowd is probably a very different demographic and socio-economic background than a tennis crowd. But still, they didn’t seem to suggest ways he could help.

Here’s one of the longest running extreme sport celebrities. He’s got to have connections. It’s not really his job to think, “who do I know?” It’s the job of the fundraiser to ask things like:

  • “Who do you know?”
  • “What connections might you have to make this an amazing project?”
  • “How might the people you know be able to make this blessing last beyond a one day event?”

But noone in the team seemed interested in finding out.

Perhaps both results stemmed from the same problem: self-absorption.

Both teams seemed so consumed with trying to do an amazing deed to be able to stay in this challenge that they neglected to get to know the schools or the celebrities.

The way the show was edited, neither team came up with the idea of getting a tour of the schools they were helping. They seem to quickly figure out the problems and then hastily start “fixing” them.

But you can’t really do that without spending some time getting to know the people you’re working with and for.

Agassi apparently knew this. When he came, he got a tour. And in getting a tour of the school, he found out that the kids needed more than just a playground, they needed new computers and other equipment. Engaging the school helped him get a better understanding of how he could help.

As fundraisers, we must be interested in other people: donor prospects and the people we’re helping. The people we’re helping can’t simply be “a cause” or “a group we’re helping.” They’re individuals with stories that deserve to be heard.

And donors and donor prospects, even celebrity donors, don’t know us well enough to know exactly how they can help. That’s why fundraisers need to get out from behind our desks. We need to walk around and see the mission that our organizations are accomplishing. And we need to engage our donors so that we get to know them.

The Christmas Team did great things for so many kids. But I wonder what “money” they left on the table because they didn’t explore with Tony.

Would I have done any better? I have no idea.

Some may argue that they did the best they could given the time constraints. But all of our nonprofits work daily under the type of time pressure these Big Give teams work under. We have an extremely limited time to get our mission funded. And it’s often “do or die.”

So let’s not get distracted by that pressure. Let’s remember to see individuals as people that can help in special and unique ways.

Who can you get to know better today? Perhaps they have talents, relationships, or passions that are a perfect match for your group!

This is the third blog post in a series related to Oprah’s Big Give.

The others are:

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