Sunday, March 25, 2012

BIG’s Blog: Have You Seen Moneyball?

I played baseball as a kid. Full disclosure: I stunk at it. They put me in the outfield and when the batter hit a pop-fly to me, I could never gauge where to be to catch the ball. I’d run in and the ball would sail over my head, or I would run back towards the wall and the ball would drop fifty feet in front of me. And batting? Let’s just say I stunk and leave it at that. That is probably why I appreciate good baseball and good baseball players. And the older I get, the more I enjoy watching the game.

I read Moneyball by Michael Lewis when it first was published in 2003. When I heard they were making a movie of the book, I couldn’t wait to see it. The movie didn’t disappoint.

I’ve already blogged about the analytic theme of the movie. Today I’m going to focus on the message of “why change.” In the case of the movie, they used analytics to recruit players versus the “old ways” of doing so. The same reticence to change rings true for the current state of fundraising.  

The scene that really drove that home for me was the scene where Billy Bean (Brad Pitt), General Manager for the Oakland A’s is talking to Paul Podesta (Jonah Hill), his newly hired assistant GM, about using analytics to draft players for his team.

BILLY: Why… You’re not the only computer science major who likes baseball. If what you and Bill James are saying is right…

PAUL: It’s right.

BILLY: It sounds right.

PAUL: It is right.

BILLY: If math isn’t a theory…

PAUL: It isn’t.

BILLY: If this is right, why isn’t everybody doing it? In fact why isn’t anyone doing it?

PAUL: Because it’s not what they were taught.

Fundraisers today are challenged more than ever to find new donors. The old ways of finding new donors through direct mail is growing as outmoded as thinking that a team shouldn’t draft a player because his girlfriend is ugly (it’s in the movie). But it is the way we have all been taught. It’s also safe and comfortable. But in fundraising, the old modes aren’t working anymore.  

Stop just thinking of your job as a fundraiser for a moment. Our behaviors in our non-work life have changed dramatically as we have become more comfortable with the real-time, always-on Internet. Shouldn’t we adjust to our new behaviors in the way we structure our fundraising?


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