football on a pitch

Fundraising and football: possession, creating shots and playing the long game

Many of this year’s respondents of our Fundraising ROI’s survey generated income from areas where they spent nothing.  Unsolicited major gifts and legacies were not unusual.


Money for nothing???  Tell me more please….


It will come as no surprise that the charities who benefitted from such unsolicited gifts were the ones who had several other well established streams of income.


It makes sense doesn’t it?


  • Invest in individual giving for long enough and inevitably, you’ll receive some major gifts
  • Be consistent in sending a newsletter over a long enough time period and eventually you’ll secure some legacy gifts
  • Put on some seriously great events and in time, you’ll secure some one-off cash gifts from previous participants for whom you created great memories.
  • Work closely with your corporate partners and you’ll recruit participants for your fundraising events


Charities that receive unsolicited gifts from sources they’re not actively investing in are doing so because they’re investing in other places.


They’ve built a loyal audience and sufficient awareness to enable pro-active giving, instigated by the donor.


We gathered responses for our 2021 Fundraising ROI’s survey during June and July, around the time of the Euro 2020 tournament.  The whole country had gone football crazy and with the promise of staying up on a school night (our kids were delighted, as a morning lark, I wasn’t) I reluctantly tuned in with my family, to watch the final.

The first 20 minutes of the England vs Italy nailbiter was entertaining enough.  Even I (not a football fan in case you hadn’t already gathered…) was able to appreciate the skill demonstrated by our team, fast passing between players, the subtle communication between individuals that comes with knowing your teammates sufficiently that you can pre-empt their decision making in order to influence your own.

The England team began as one, but as the match went on, it was Italy that came together, commanded the field and dominated.  As the stats relating to ball possession flashed up on the screen (71% Italy, 29% England), I knew that by the time penalties rolled around that the writing was on the wall.

We were going to lose and we deserved to.

This is my long winded way of saying that you have to be in it to win it.


The more you possess the ball, the more shots you’re likely to create.


Only by creating shots on goal, will you succeed by getting the ball into the back of the net.


In fundraising terms this slighty random metaphor translates as:


The more contact points and choices you offer supporters (and potential supporters) over a longer period of time, the greater the compounding effect and the more shots on goal you’ll create.


This isn’t about investing in EVERY SINGLE TYPE OF FUNDRAISING IMMEDIATELY. It’s about removing barriers and silos and recognising that fundraising is ultimately about relationships.  Don’t pigeonhole or label your supporters according to an archaic organisational system, rather recognise the opportunities for crossover wherever possible.

Of course, sustainability is key and it’s so much better to do few things well.  Fundraising is a long term game and knowing when to expand your fundraising operation is a skill in itself.

A local homelessness charity I spoke to recently has received several major gifts in the past year from donors they’ve never connected with before.  They’re now thinking about buying major gifts training and investing staff time (for the first time ever) into building on these relationships, recognising that clearly they’re doing something which is attracting supporters.

If you’ve started to receive money from a source you’re not actively pursuing, then that’s a great sign that with some focused effort, the rewards could be significant.


  • Play the long game
  • Stick at it, be consistent and make sure you work is high quality
  • Don’t get hung up on silos or labels
  • Add more activities over time
  • Don’t be afraid to rock a hairband for fear that you’re too old / male / conservative in the style department. You do you.


Our 2021 Fundraising ROI’s benchmarking study is available to download today.  Visit this page to grab your copy. 

Posted in Fundraising.