What Can Nonprofits Learn from the Chicago Cubs?

For decades I’ve been among the hoards of die-hard Chicago Cubs fans. My family and I are now reveling in the glory of a shiny World Series trophy firmly in place in Wrigleyville. I still can’t believe I’m able to write that.

And the tales I’ve heard of people crying (myself included…see above!)—tearing up because they thought this day would never come in their lifetimes—blows me away. It’s a common theme across the country. Cubs devotion has been passed down through generations. Same with the Yankees, the Dodgers, Cardinals and Red Sox. Those teams are all national—even global—sports icons. The only difference: those other teams were proven winners. The Cubs? They’ve been the sports world’s lovable losers for more than a century.

But not anymore!

So what lessons can nonprofit fundraisers take from the Cubs story?

  1. You always have a chance. If your organization is not thriving, if it’s stagnant or even on the skids, there’s still hope. It may involve restructuring, new talent across the board or a new injection of optimistic, can-do leadership. Lord knows the Cubs have tried them all many times over. And it finally paid off—big time
  2. Be grateful for your core fan base. Organizations big and small generally have supporters who stick with them through thick and thin. Never take their passion for granted. Not only do they stick with you when times are tough, they are the first to spread their discipleship to others when things start looking up.You can bet the Cubs have scores of new fans at this moment, most of whom know someone they thought was foolish for sticking with the Cubs all these years. That devotion took decades to build…and keep intact. Now, those passionate supporters are key in helping build a new Cubs Nation.
  3. Share the wealth—and the credit. The Cubs management were quick and gracious to thank all who were involved in their success. Fans, of course, but also the City of Chicago, staff, even the Cleveland Indians organization. Sharing good fortune with those around you helps create “ownership” for success, giving people a heightened sense of achievement. When you have that deeper level of buy-in, you are positioned to do great things. Be sure to thank your supporters. Your organization wouldn’t be the same without them!

As Cubs fans everywhere continue to sing “Go, Cubs, Go” and dream of another World Series win (without 108 years in between), I’ll continue learning from the Cubs and their incredible win this year.

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