The GiveSmart Blog

Your One Stop Shop to Fundraising

March Madness: What Basketball Teaches About Fundraising Technology

Posted by Ashley Shaw on 3/16/17 11:00 AM


It’s March. And that means it is March Madness. And as we kick off the greatest time of the NCAA basketball year, let’s figure out how we can learn from it: with some basketball-themed lessons about fundraising technology.

5 Lessons Basketball Teaches Us About Fundraising Technology

While you are in a basketball state of mind, combine your interests: with these five lessons about fundraising or nonprofit tech, b-ball style.

Lesson 1: Sometimes You Want Man-to-Man Defense, Sometimes Zone


The plays that a team makes depends on a lot of different factors:

  • Coaching style
  • Player talents
  • The specific situation
  • The skills of the opponent

Different teams will play in different ways. But what can be said in a definite way is this:

There is no one sizes fits all.

When it comes to nonprofit technology, the same is true.

What you want and need depends on you: your event, your organization, your budget, your style, and your potential donors and guests.

Make sure to evaluate the situation based off of your needs. (And need help figuring out if the cost is justified? Download our free ebook and it will walk you through how to do this very thing:)

Download Our Free "Justify Tech" Paper

Zone versus Man-to-Man: Take 2

Of course, I could have gone a completely different way with this lesson:

Zone defense occurs when a player is assigned to defend a specific area on the court, as opposed to a specific player.

Man-to-Man, on the other hand, applies when a player is told to defend a specific player.

Both tactics have their place, and if you watch basketball, you’ll see both (or variants of them).

In my tech analogy, zone defense is akin to more traditional fundraising measures: an organization raising money for itself.

Man-to-man is crowdfunding, or peer-to-peer: letting your donors fundraise for you.

Nonprofit technology helps make both of these “defenses” a lot easier. But when you are looking at tech packages, you want to know which you will be using, and you want to make sure your choices best reflect that.  

Lesson 2: Three-pointers Are Impressive, But You Have to Make Free Throws Too


Who doesn’t want a major donor? You get a few of those, and your fundraising goals are met for the year.

And you should try for those big gifters. That’s smart. But just like a pro basketball player wouldn’t only shoot three-pointers, sometimes you need to take advantage of a layup or a free throw. They can be the difference between winning and losing.

In this analogy, I’m, of course, talking about getting small donors too.

Don’t base your entire fundraising platform on the 4, 5, and 6 figure donors. Go for them IN ADDITION to smaller donors, not in exclusion of.

That’s why fundraising technology is so great:

It lets you take donations from anybody at anytime, no matter where they are, how much they want to give, or how often they want to give it.   

Lesson 3: A Peach Basket Can Change the World


James Naismith created the game of basketball at a YMCA when he was asked to give a group of restless young men an activity they could do indoors. He thought about games he had played in his past, and he took a couple of peach baskets and nailed them to the wall.

Listen to this description (from of why basketball grew from a peach basket in a YMCA to the crazy success it is today:

“Basketball caught on because graduates of the YMCA school traveled widely, because Naismith disseminated the rules freely, and because there was a need…”

Let’s sum up what this is saying you need to do to start something huge:

  • Spread the word all over the world (not just in your community).
  • Be transparent about what you are and how you operate.
  • Address a need.

Fundraising technology is the method by which you get your “peach basket” out to the world, turning it into a game changer.

This can mean spending time on social media (spreading the word), allowing people to make donations from anywhere (all over the world), or even creating a website that tells people who you are (transparency) and why you are needed (addressing a need).

You may be small now, but with the right story and a little modern technology, maybe soon you’ll have millions of people watching a Madness built around your amazing cause.

Lesson 4: It’s Always Fun to Root for the Underdog


Who doesn’t love a Cinderella story?

It’s never as exciting when the winning team has won year after year after year after….

Well, you get it. (Though, if this win streak has sparked some kind of amazing streak that has never been done before, my point becomes negated.)

However, find a team who has never even made it to the tournament and who is ranked dead last and maybe has a couple of players with horrible sob stories that melt the hearts of even the coldest people and then imagine the excitement and bandwagon fans if they were to win…


Because people love a good story.

That being said…

Do you know how to spark fundraising for your cause like never before?

You tell a good story!

I’ve talked about how to tell your story before. But having a good story actually isn’t enough:

You’ve got to get people to hear it.


Today’s fundraising technology can help a lot.

  • Social media
  • Fundraising websites
  • Emails and text messaging

You know what you need to do: get people rooting for you. And the tech you’ve got at your hands is how you’ll get them to do it.

So if you aren’t doing all of these, then you might want to start.   

Lesson 5: You Have to Know When It Is Time to Readjust


You’ve worked all season to get to the tournament, and clearly it has been working: you’re here aren’t you?

But in the big game, for whatever reason, all those things you’ve been doing all season long just aren’t panning out:

  • The other team has been studying your moves and is prepared.
  • Your players are nervous and aren’t executing.
  • You’ve got a little bit of bad luck on your hands.
  • The refs are calling things they don’t normally call.

The reason doesn’t matter. What does is this:

What are you going to do now?

Any good coach will answer like this: you change something.

A lot of times, we see fundraiser organizers say something like this:

“We don’t want to start using fundraising technology because we never have before. Our donors are used to pen and paper. They won’t figure it out.”

Well, guess what?

If you keep doing the same things, you’ll get the same results. If you want to start seeing bigger and better things, you switch things up.

So if you aren’t getting the results you want, learn from the best coaches: evaluate what is going wrong, and readjust.

10 Seconds Left on the Clock....

The time I can spend working on this post is coming to a close…

So I’d better do something amazing with the time I’ve got left.

I’m not much of a shooter, though. So I’m passing it to you guys:

Do you have any more tips or ideas?

If so, let me know in the comments or on social media.

Now, go enjoy the games…

And if you want more tips, advice, and ideas on fundraising technology, sign up for our newsletter.  

Sign up for Our Newsletter

Topics: Tips and How To's

Tell Us What You Thought...