Updated: 7 days ago
Coaching is one of our areas of expertise at Team Kat & Mouse, and this summer, I had the chance to take on that role in a larger way. My 5-year-old started playing t-ball, and the league sent us emails pleading with someone to volunteer to coach. I was never much of an athlete myself, but I figured I’d give it a shot. I watch plenty of baseball, so coaching it shouldn’t be that hard, right?
Turns out coaching isn’t easy - especially when your players are fighting the constant temptation to play in the dirt. For all its challenges, though, coaching was an amazing experience. Seeing the players grow, learn, and develop a love of the game was incredibly rewarding for me.
That said, I was excited for soccer season to start. 8am games on Saturdays are no joke, but getting to relax and watch instead of trying to get 5-year-olds to listen sounded great.
But guess what? It was another season with no coach!
After several emails pleading for a parent to coach (again!), I decided to do it. I know next to nothing about soccer, but I gave it a shot.
Like t-ball, it’s been a great experience…but there have been some challenges along the way.
Anyone who has watched young kids play soccer knows it’s hard for them to grasp the concept of passing the ball. I made it my mission to get the kids to play selflessly and move the ball around the field.
A few weeks ago, we had a breakthrough. After several games and practices of me imploring them to pass the ball, they did it. They played selflessly and did everything I hoped they would do. I even got to see my son, Elliot, score his first goal - a magical experience that I still get excited thinking about.
Watching the difference in the games after the kids mastered passing the ball got me thinking about the other areas in life where we need to (metaphorically) pass the ball. That includes nonprofits!
In a field of people who live the mission, it can be hard to pass the ball. We get so committed to the work that we forget we have teammates who are working toward the same goal.
So, just like the players on my team, I have a simple piece of advice - don’t be afraid to pass the ball! Think about the people and groups you can lean on as you work toward your shared goals:
Your Board of Directors: We forget that people join our Boards because they are personally committed to our work. Yes, we lean on them to donate and provide oversight, but they also have expertise that extends beyond the traditional governance role they serve. Do you need marketing help and have a marketing professional on the Board? Lean on their expertise and let them help guide your decision-making.
Partner Organizations: This one can be a big challenge. We get into a competitive headspace and try to outshine other organizations instead of leaning on them and identifying shared goals. Whenever possible, build collaborative approaches to solving problems and pool resources. As a bonus, funders will always look kindly upon robust community partnerships.
Other Team Members: This one seems obvious, but we so often overlook the expertise and passion of team members - especially those who work in other departments. If we’re trying to build cultures of philanthropy, though, everyone must have a seat at the table. Lean on your teammates and let them have a stake in your work.
The People You Serve: This is the one nonprofit staff really tend to forget. The people you’re serving should be the core of your work, and there are many initiatives - community events and outreach efforts, to name a few - where the population you serve can be your biggest advocates. As we work to build responsive, grassroots interventions, these are valuable teammates who you shouldn’t be afraid to lean on.
My team has its last game this weekend, and I’m excited to see the culmination of all their hard work this season. As they’ve learned to depend on their teammates and pass the ball, they’ve become a more effective team and grown as players along the way.
I hope more nonprofits can do the same! We’re all in it together, and we’ll have more success accomplishing our missions if we take a team-first approach.
Looking for help getting your team in game shape? Call Team Kat & Mouse for a free consultation!