The Green Bay Packers are the only nonprofit in American sports major leagues today. Find out how your organization can develop the same fired-up fan base.
We’ve always admired and worked with nonprofits to help them raise much needed revenue (through your cell phone donations). We keep track of developments in this sector and when the Green Bay Packers, a nonprofit, wins the Super Bowl XLV, we’re just as excited and fired up about it as every other ‘cheesehead’ out there.
The National Football League (NFL) rules explicitly limit the number of owners of each franchise to 32. So, what’s a community-owned team like the Packers (100,000+ shareholders) doing in the NFL? Well, being pioneer has its privileges. They’re one of the oldest franchises (founded in 1919) in the league and so they were “grandfathered” when the new rules took effect. Today, the Green Bay Packers is the only community-owned nonprofit franchise in American professional sports major leagues.
Awesome Fan Base
Few teams in the top leagues can boast of a huge and extremely loyal fan base that the Packers have. Cheeseheads (Packers fans) not just buy tickets to the team’s season games, they also actually own Packers corporation stocks.
Every Packers home game has been sold out since 1960 and there are now close to 100,000 people in their waiting list for season tickets. The average wait time to get tickets is 30 years – people enroll in the waiting list today so their children or grandchildren can have a chance to see a Packers home game.
Packers shares don’t appreciate in value over time, no dividends are ever paid, and you can’t get a season ticket through stock ownership. So, why own a stock? For the love of the team and nothing more, apparently.
So what can other nonprofits learn from the Green Bay Packers?
Develop a fan base. A small but fired-up core group of supporters can do wonders to your organization in terms of financial support and exponential expansion. We’re in the age of social media – anyone among your enthusiastic supporters can potentially invite dozens or hundreds of other people to listen to your message.
Engage your community. If your cause is helping people and you’re really good at what you do, tell people about it. Fans follow the news about their team or favorite nonprofit. You can’t have the kind of free press coverage that the Packers enjoy, but you can update your Facebook fan page or tweet about your activities to your followers regularly.
Turn your followers into stakeholders. Obviously, not every nonprofit will want to adopt the Packers corporate model but if you can, go public and let your followers own a few stocks of your organization. Nothing works like direct ownership to boost loyalty. Even if you can’t distribute stocks, you might want to treat your loyal supporters as shareholders – send out reports, ask for decision-making votes or ideas, organize “shareholders” meetings (fan meet-ups), etc. All these will simulate the condition of stock ownership and will have the same effect on your fans’ morale as actual stock ownership.
We can’t all be nonprofit football greats, but your organization can certainly start to do things outside of your comfort zone and learn a thing or two from them. In any case, congratulations to the Green Bay Packers for winning the Super Bowl XLV championship.