The Footballification of Campaigns

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Some of you may know that I love watching NFL football. And that my beloved team, the Saints, powered through the wildcard playoffs before losing to Seattle last weekend.

Yes, Seattle. If you are a frequent reader (or if you’re my four square friend), you know that I’ve been to Seattle. A lot. My trips have coincided with some key Saints/Seahawks games (I was in town on 12/4 following the 12/2 game and on 1/14 following the 1/11 game). Normally, I’m a very sore loser, but I’m trying to be better about it (perhaps due to my client in the Seattle area). I will say that last weekend’s game was a joy to watch, and it has been fun to be in town so often and see the genuine enthusiasm among the fans as their team inches closer to the ultimate goal. To all of my Seattle friends, congratulations and enjoy your Super Bowl experience.

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Since this is a blog about my work and travel experiences, not about travel and football, you had to know I was headed for some sort of wacky analogy with all the football references, right? Ok, here goes.

We were recently asked to submit a proposal to an organization to do some post-campaign analysis. It occurs to me that campaigns are like the football season. There’s a whole lot of buildup. You spend time getting all of your supporters excited until they feel committed. They are as much in this campaign as you are. You’re making the case for people to support you over any other organization. You continue to refine and adjust your strategy throughout the campaign, eventually achieving your goal (okay, I suppose this is where the metaphor is a bit thin. Not everyone wins the Super Bowl, but most organizations finish their campaigns. Maybe not the year they thought they’d be done, or at the target amount they initially envisioned, but they do finish. So maybe campaigns are like regular season football).

Anyway, you reach your goal, you celebrate, and then…what do you do? Just like how most of us feel the day after the Super Bowl, it’s back to business as usual. Instead of listening to Mike and Mike on my drive in to work, I put on NPR or Bloomberg. Football is brought up occasionally, there’s the draft, but it doesn’t get exciting again until the next season. Is this how our fundraising operations are conducted between campaigns? Are we just coasting? Are we immediately gearing up to start again? Or are we looking at what worked, what did not work, and making some between-campaign adjustments? They do this in football all the time- most of the movement happens between seasons (or immediately as post-season games start in the case of coaching changes on Black Monday). And they do it largely based on data (were you waiting for me to mention data?). Analysts break down games, players, and plays ad nauseum. They can slice and dice everything having to do with the game, some things which are tangentially related at best. I bet someone has analyzed Tom Brady’s performance in games where he has facial hair versus games when he doesn’t (if this hasn’t been done, someone should look into it).
For example…

Wins (from 9/10/2013)

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Loses (from 12/15/2013)

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Readers, what do you think? Are we as an industry analyzing our fundraising efforts in between campaigns? If we are analyzing, what types of changes is it leading to? Do we get more resources? Different resources? Does it lead us to reorganize our teams in a way that better allows us to be mission-focused and donor-centered? I applaud this particular potential client for deciding to take a look back. I know there are other organizations that have done this as well. What about you? Take my poll and add a comment if you’ve been a part of a post-campaign analysis:

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