Who’s on Your Fantasy Advancement Team?

Ok, Fantasy Sports fans! It’s time to apply the fantasy sports model to Advancement.

As the self-appointed Fantasy Sports Guru at EverTrue, I was incredibly intrigued when the Case Western team mentioned to me at the recent ICAA conference that some of its members come up with their own Fantasy Advancement Teams as they look for resources and expertise in different advancement areas throughout the year!

As fantasy football revs up for the start of the upcoming NFL season, I thought I’d take a stab at expanding on how your advancement team can build its own fantasy team to help with your efforts.


Let’s start with just a few benefits. If you’ve ever been to a CASE event, you’ve inevitably heard the phrase “copy and steal everything.” Fortunately, we work in an amazing industry; peers across institutions are incredibly willing to share ideas and collaborate with each other with the goal of helping the entire advancement community raise more money for their respective schools. However, since there are so many different organizations with different advancement practices and donor populations, it is important to identify which ideas best translate for your own efforts and goals.

Building a fantasy advancement team can help you identify and keep track of who you identify as some of your peers (and even their advancement teams) who you consider to be advancement thought leaders. It can also help you keep track of ideas and practices that you and your team want to implement.

Let’s not forget that it can also just be a really fun way to share with the rest of your colleagues which peer institutions you feel are doing a really great job and what takeaways might make sense for your own organization.

Breaking down the Positions

This is just one very basic example of team. Feel free to change it based on what positions your team is most interested in. Get creative with what you want your lineup to look like.

Senior Leadership (pick 2)

Similar to the QB or coach, successful Senior Leadership professionals have great management skills, vision, and strategic thinking to ensure your team will crush its fundraising goals. Who do you see as your Bill Belichicks (shameless Boston/Wesleyan alum bias) on the advancement playing field?

Major Gifts (pick 4)

Similar to running backs, successful Major Gift officers excel as road warriors and in converting key prospects to bring in the big bucks. They are tactful and creative when building their relationships with major donors, while also building a pipeline of prospects. They thrive under pressure and are incredibly goal- and number-oriented.

Annual Fund (pick 4)

Similar to wide receivers, successful Annual Fund officers and their teams are dynamic in their solicitation of donors and can make big plays as the annual fund comes to a close with phone-a-thons and giving days. At times, they also show some flare with their communications efforts and know how to do a great celebration dance when they crush their participation and annual fund goals.

Prospect Research/Advancement Services (pick 2)

Similar to a team’s defense, these folks might not get as much glory or time in the spotlight, but they are absolutely essential in giving the rest of the team a chance to be successful and achieve their team goals. Keep an eye out for advancement services professionals, like prospect researchers who are innovative in their identification of prospects and help establish an efficient way for their team to succeed in their individual roles using the most up-to-date donor data and technology possible.

Alumni & External Relations/Communications (pick 4)

The Alumni Relations/Communications offices are like the PR teams, Marketing teams, Mascot and Marching Band all rolled into one. Successful Alumni relations and Communication professionals are experts in creating excitement and affinity amongst their constituents, while also getting the key messaging out to their community. They are creative, passionate about their organization, know how to throw successful event, and connect members of their community with each other and back with to their alma mater.

Look out for people who are great at segmenting their constituents, and who know are engage and get their community’s attention through strong social media practices and swag give-a-aways.

Volunteer Programs (pick 2 organizations that have strong volunteer programs)

If we learned anything from last year’s Super Bowl Champion, the Seattle Seahawks, it’s that fans can actually make a difference. Likewise, volunteers can do wonders for advancement teams. Great volunteer programs are well-organized and rally volunteers to spread the organization’s message throughout the community.


As we all know, fundraising is not always easy (and is often times stressful). Thinking of fun ways to inspire your team and highlight what peers have done at their respective institutions through a the fantasy sports model is just one simple way to bring some productive fun into the workplace.

So I’m challenging anyone interested in creating their own fantasy advancement team to share it with their colleagues and even in the blog comments below. Be sure to explain your picks and share ideas on why you see them as though leaders in the space. If have ideas on ways to expand the above model, or if there are other fun ways that your office shares and collaborates ideas, please let us know in the comments!

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