What Do Football & Fundraising Have In Common?

What Do Football & Fundraising Have In Common?

Jay Riemersma is a family man, a passionate follower of Jesus, a past congressional candidate, a gifted stewardship director, and he’s Dutch. Oh, by the way, he played tight end in the NFL for nine seasons. For the past eleven years Jay has served as Senior Director of Advancement for Family Research Council in Washington, DC. He has a unique perspective on what football and fundraising have in common.

Like all of us, Jay has been practicing the Michigan stay at home order, but he has used this time to stay very active with mega/major donors. Jay notes, “These are unprecedented and uncertain times. I don’t know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future.” He and his team launched a donor touch program called, “Check Ins;” making pastoral calls with their key ministry partners via phone, text, e-mail and Zoom. They even hosted some Zoom conference calls in a live radio format vibe with key FRC leaders sharing information and donors asking questions and getting immediate answers.

Jay played seven years for the Buffalo Bills playing the New England Patriots twice a year. There was not much love loss between teams, but a whole lot of respect for Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick, perhaps the best coach in NFL history. Belichick is an offensive and defensive mastermind designing new plays for every game.

Jay shares, “We tossed the scouting reports because whatever we prepared for during the week had nothing to do with the actual game because his plays were often unprecedented and uncertain.” Sound familiar? Often at the end of the first quarter they would have to seriously adjust their game plan and go back to the basics: running good routes, opening holes for running backs, executing good blocking schemes, and of course, finishing good tackles. It’s the basics; back to the fundamentals of the game.

As you ride out this COVID slow down and prepare to re-open your ministry, go back to the basics.

(1) Play to your strengths. What were you doing well before the pandemic and what will you be able to do when this Season of Recovery begins? Jay commented, “Great coaches and great leaders know the strengths of their team and utilize their experience and expertise.

(2) Be prepared with personalized donor messages for your key ministry partners. Share real ministry needs, critical stewardship opportunities, and a team perspective, ‘We are all in this together and we need each and every one of you.’

(3) Pray for your ministry partners and invite them to pray for you.

(4) Visit your key donors in person. Sit at their kitchen table or out by the pool. Be flexible with travel. Tell them you love them, you need them. Go back to the fundamentals of communication, personal input, marketing, messaging, and ministry. It’s almost as basic as blocking and tackling.”

Good advice from an experienced stewardship officer who has raised millions in gift income. So, what do football and fundraising have in common? You need a game plan, good communication, clear goals and expectations, and a true love for people, your ministry partners – it’s a team effort! This too shall pass; we don’t know what ministry will look like in the new normal. Be ready and don’t fumble!

Article co-authored by Jay Reimersma and Pat McLaughlin.

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