Lee Corso – On Football and Fund Raising

By James A. Donovan • October 25th, 2010

Lee Corso, ESPN’s College Football Game Day Commentator, has some year-end tips for fund raisers.

Twenty-five years ago, when I started my consulting business with other partners, we held week long classes on successful fund raising techniques.  At the end of the week each participant received a certificate of completion and then Lee would give closing remarks to the class.

Lee was so exciting and animated that he made Steve Martin of a Wild and Crazy Guy fame, look dull.  After being introduced he would sprint to the podium, raise his hands and start yelling, “Five seconds on the clock, fourth and goal, score tied 7-7, let’s go!” His enthusiasm was more contagious than measles.

Well, I caught up with Lee recently and he was kind enough to let me ask him what advice he would give fund raisers in today’s economic climate, especially with year-end giving. Here you go.

First- Be passionate about your cause.

Whether you are working to preserve the planet, save wildlife, cure the sick, preventing abuse, caring for the elderly, feeding the poor — you must be passionate, says Lee.  He asks, “If you can’t be excited about the mission you are on, how do you expect others to be?” Don’t be afraid to show your emotions.  After all, most donors give out of emotion rather than reason or logic.

Second – Focus on the fundamentals. According to Lee, “the close games in college football are won by coaches and players who stick to the basics.” In a tight competition or tough fund raising climate, don’t try to get fancy.  Stick to what works.

Third – Do your homework.  Before every football season starts Lee heads to a little fishing village on the west coast of Florida and studies dozens of pages of statistics, charts and pre-season team rankings so he can be prepared on College Game Day to predict the winner.

Fourth- Get out of the office and in front of donors. Lee says, in doing so “use the three P’s of successful football — persistence, practice and patience.” Be persistent about getting the appointment, practice the ask, be patient when the donor needs more time before making a decision.  Don’t rush the process.

When Lee’s fellow commentators are making their predictions about who will win the game, he is fond of saying to them — “Not so fast my friends.” Good advice. Don’t be too fast to keep fund raising the way you have.  Heed Lee’s advice.

If you live in Central Florida, you might run into Lee in Heathrow where he serves in the off season as Director of Business Development for Dixon Ticonderoga, a pencil manufacturing company.

In 1985 Lee Corso was the head coach for the Orlando Renegades.  Born in Cicero, Illinois, he was quarterback for Miami Jackson Senior High and went on to play football for Florida State University where his football roommate was Burt Reynolds.

As always, your comments are always welcome.

All the best for success.


P.S.   Our books, Take the Fear Out of Asking for Major Gifts and 50 Ways to Motivate Your Board, make great holiday gifts. Learn more click here.


Leave a Comment

« | Home | »

  • Past Posts