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around the Olympic Games.We will do a number of things to take our contributors to the games with us. That is, anyone that gives a gift at any level will be invited to a reception, whether it was at the last Games in Vancouver or the upcom- ing Games in London. Or we have packages where someone could pay $150,000 to come with us on a totally VIP experi- ence, where we are staying at The Dorchester in London— with the best hotels, best meals, that kind of thing. But we build those giving programs with a four-year lead-time so that some- one canmake a contribution at any point during the quad, and then pay it over four years. That helps us smooth out the pledges over a longer period of time so we do not have wild fluctuation in our cash flowor in our giving. But we are really using the event to drive the business.

How do you tie your messaging back to where donationsactually go? That is the hard part, right? And that is the key, I think, for modern philanthropists: They want to know a direct outcome from their contribution. The expectation there is that you are able to say, “Because of your contribution, we have been able

What they are great contributors around is their advocacy

and their energy, the people that they meet, and how won- derfully they speak of the movement and their experience as an Olympian.We are really trying to harness that—the U.S. Olympians Association and an army of volunteers, to talk about our message. Now that we have that Case for Support, we understand what the compelling reasons are for informing our alumni about all of that and then asking them to act on our behalf. We do the obvious things, like when we have a big donor

event, we will invite a bunch of Olympians to come and min- gle with the crowd and help tell their stories. None of that is surprising, but we are starting to do more and more of it. In fact, this Saturday, I am having the Colorado chapter of the U.S. Olympians Association come here to our headquarters for lunch. I am just doing a Q&A lunch with them to find out what is on their minds, what we can do to better serve them as an association — and, hopefully, plant some seeds about how they can be out helping to educate people about us. Some of it is really basic—like make sure people know that we are nonprofit when you meet someone on a plane, and if they think the Olympics is neat, tell them how they can contribute. That sort of thing.

“The experience for me, when I am work- ing with a contributor who hasbeen to the Olympicsversus one who hasnot, is entirely different. I think you have to be there and be witness to it, to understand the power of the Games.”

to do this— we have been able to send these many athletes to an Olympic Training Center, or we have been able to win this many medals at the Pan American Games.”We are doing a better and better job, I think, every year of tying concrete outcomes to the increase that we have seen through philan- thropic support.

Tell me about the Olympian alumni. How do you engage those athletes? A lot of associations have alumni memberswho are perhapsfiercely loyal to the cause, yet are not being tapped. That is a perfect question. The U.S. Olympians Association has been around for a long, long time, and just [last] Janu- ary, we moved [that association] to be a part of our oversight —what we do here in development. So the two people—our alumni-relations managers—work for me now. And this year, we are just getting our arms around exactly that: How do we tap our alumni into being a great engine for the U.S. Olympic Committee? All of us talk about how there is this great, under- utilized asset. But the challenge is, okay, well then, how do we utilize them? My experience has been that they are not — and this is not disparaging—but they are not great contrib- utors, in that financial way, the way alumni to a college would contribute.

58 pcmaconvene February 2012

So you are using them more as a thought-leader- ship resource than mining them for donation dollars. Yeah, that is exactly right. The mindset is just really differ- ent. And maybe in 10 or 20 years, it can be a revenue thing for us, but right now I see their role being much more as advo- cates and educating people about what we are doing here.

The Olympic Gamesisthe ultimate face-to-face event. What isthe power of that event to what you do? I think there is absolutely nothing like it. The experience for me, when I am working with a contributor who has been to the Olympics versus one who has not, is entirely different. I think you have to be there and be witness to it, to understand the power of the Games. When you are there, and you are experiencing the sort of international power of it, it’s really transformative. I think there is nothing that I can do on our website, or through materials, or with a DVD, or even with meeting athletes one-on-one, that is like going to the Games. That is why we have so many programs around getting peo- ple to the Games. You know, both at the high end, and sort of at the medium end.We do not really have anything on the low end to get people to the Games, because going to London, going to Vancouver—those are expensive endeavors. There absolutely is not anything that I can replicate other

than being there and being a part of that experience. And I find that if we do that right,…if we get someone there and they have that taste of it, then there is so much more that I can do once they are kind of a part of that community and a part of that family. It is not impossible, but it is more difficult when the donor has not really been there and experienced that.We can do a little bit at our fundraising events, we can do a little bit at our training centers, but going to the Games—it is trans- formational. 

 Michelle Russell is editor in chief of Convene.

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