Creative and brand strategy, Digital strategy, Strategic planning

Three Things Nonprofit Fundraisers Can Take From March Madness and Women’s Basketball in 2024

We’re right in the thick of March Madness, with Final Four matchups ahead at the end of the week – and this year, there are more eyes than ever on the women’s tournament. With Caitlin Clark breaking record after record on the court (and attendance records in the stands!) and well-known stars like JuJu Watkins and Angel Reese bringing more attention to the sport, it’s safe to say that this is a big year for women’s NCAA basketball.

And the wider world of women’s sports is gaining mainstream momentum right alongside women’s basketball, too – which has us thinking about some of the biggest trends that nonprofit fundraisers can take back to their programs about viral moments, new audiences, and a collaborative spirit.

1. Make the most of moments of attention – be prepared to scale up.

With the increased attention on women’s basketball games and rising stars, fans are flocking to trending merchandise from mission-driven brands like TOGETHXR – and these brands, in turn, are leveraging viral moments to drive even more growth. Earlier this year, when University of South Carolina’s head coach Dawn Staley gave a pregame interview while wearing a TOGETHXR sweatshirt reading, “Everyone Watches Women’s Sports” – the design was sold out before the end of the game.

Head coach Dawn Staley of the South Carolina Gamecocks, wearing Togethxr's

Head coach Dawn Staley of the South Carolina Gamecocks, wearing Togethxr’s “Everyone Watches Women’s Sports” T-shirt. Photo: Getty Images

Of course, TOGETHXR leverages moments of attention like these across all their channels, and the well-known female-athlete founders of the brand use their voices to bring attention and excitement to their products. This kind of readiness can help nonprofits take periods of attention and momentum for their mission as far as possible, too. If a celebrity signer, a piece of breaking news, or an influencer is driving attention to your mission, don’t miss the opportunity to scale up across every platform possible. You’d be amazed at the difference that leaning in even more during moments of attention can make to fuel and maximize the impact of the moment.

2. Prioritize celebrity signers and influencers who are connected to your cause.

What makes these viral moments so powerful for a brand like TOGETHXR, working to elevate attention to women’s sports, isn’t just the presence of a celebrity promoting their brand – whether it’s head coach Dawn Staley leading her team or company co-founder Alex Morgan working out in an “Everyone Watches Women’s Sports” T-shirt. Rather, it’s the authentic connection those known voices have to the mission itself that makes their role as spokesperson resonate powerfully with supporters.

For nonprofits building campaigns that include influencers and celebrity signers, this offers an important reminder: The most powerful voices to promote your mission – and inspire your supporters – won’t just have an exciting household name. They’ll be someone who uses their voice to share their unique connection to your work, mission, and community.

3. Find untapped audiences who’d be eager to support your work, if asked.

If this rapidly rising attention on female athletes – from basketball, to soccer, to swimming, and more – tells us one thing, it’s this: There was already an audience here, fans ready to be tapped into and engaged with by brands and investors. And those under-engaged audiences exist for nonprofit organizations, too. As a direct marketing fundraiser, sometimes a refreshed strategy requires taking a step back. Which are the audiences that are crowded with competition, and where is there potential to connect with a new, less traditional audience, folks who might become committed supporters of your work if only they knew more about your organization’s story and mission?

And here, we find ourselves at bonus takeaway #4:

4. Never forget the power of collaboration on your broader mission.

Sharing an ambition to uplift women’s sports and bring attention to incredible athletes across disciplines, TOGETHXR was founded by WNBA star Sue Bird, USWNT soccer player Alex Morgan, two-time Olympic gold-medal winning snowboarder Chloe Kim, and champion Olympic swimmer Simone Manuel – and their commitment to collaboration is right there in the name of their brand. We like how UCLA head coach Cori Close put it: “This is bigger than just our individual program. This is about growing the game.”

As nonprofits working to power positive change in the world, this idea is at the very heart of our efforts – as an industry, rather than competing, we can have greater success in collaborating with one another, to lift up the causes that are making an impact toward urgent and necessary missions.

This core tenet is the idea behind the insight and innovation sharing of our Nonprofit Advisory Board – where leaders in the industry come together to outline solutions for the challenges facing fundraisers across nonprofit verticals. And The Digital Co-Op, too, is an effort to put this ideal into practice every day: a collaborative of more than 210 organizations whose membership powers a first-of-its-kind acquisition and advocacy tool that’s helping nonprofits connect with the very best audience for their mission.

The March Madness 2024 tournament highlights an incredible moment across women’s sports – one that we believe is just the beginning and part of something greater. At MissionWired, we’re inspired by the mission-based collectives and brands that are coming out of this movement in women’s sports because we’re honored to partner every day with a broad range of incredible nonprofits, all working toward shared ideals. We’re always excited to see where partnerships like these might lead.

If you’re into inspirational sports stories AND nonprofit fundraising and want to read more like this, check out 5 Things Your Digital Program Can Learn from Ted Lasso. If you’d like to hear more about the creative team behind MissionWired’s content strategy, you can meet our writing team here.

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