Are You Bowling or Playing Tennis?

Both bowling and tennis are competitive sports.  Just ask anyone who’s serious about either.

The question is—when you’re fundraising which are you playing.  Bowling or tennis?

It’s one or the other.

What do you mean?

Depending on which game you’re in, your fundraising program is either growing or remaining static.

The basic play in bowling is rolling a large, dense ball down a straight polished floor, with gutters on each side, toward an arrangement of static pins of uniform size and weight.  The object is to knock as many down as possible with one roll.

Bowling is what a lot of people do when they fundraise.  They’re using one method to “knock down” as many gifts as possible.  Skill is involved but it’s a rather blunt skill. 

Even if they get all the pins down at once, the “strike”, the “pins” you’ve knocked down are of uniform size and weight.  The gifts you receive from donors are mostly of equal size.  And modest. 

What’s more, once a pin is knocked down, that’s it.  These gifts don’t repeat themselves.  Sure, some of same donors make gifts again but still, modest and equal.

Tennis is also played with a ball.  You’re volleying the ball back and forth.  Back and forth.  Back and forth.  With practice, you get better—and faster.

As you get better, you can play with players of higher ability.  You also get to choose whom you play with.

When you fundraise as you play tennis, you don’t repeat yourself.  You get better.  You get to play with tougher, more expert opponents.  You get to volley back and forth with donors of greater ability.  And staying power.

Each time you volley, it comes back harder.  The volleys even come faster.

Gifts that increase in size and speed.  That’s what I call success.

As you build your fundraising program take a hard look at what you’re doing.  Are you doing the same thing in the same way with the same supporters? 

Sounds like your spring Gala, doesn’t it?

Or, are you always reaching out and building relationships with better players who bring more firepower to the table?

Learn how to play “tennis” with your fundraising using one of our training platforms: on-demand training or team training.

The very best fundraising is about building skill not merely repeating experience.

Larry C. Johnson is the Founder of The Eight Principles and the author of the award-winning book, The Eight Principles of Sustainable Fundraising.