As we head into the holiday season and the NFL playoff race heats up, I can’t help but take away a life-changing lesson from LinkedIn’s recent fundraising efforts for Movember, the men’s health charity focused on eradicating prostate and testicular cancer.

The Lesson: It’s ALWAYS about the team. Not just sometimes. ALWAYS.

movember

As you think about how you can create leverage in your company, your community, your family, and personally in 2014, think about the team you are building, what winning means, and how you are going to get there. Here are 5 guiding principles that were critical to ensuring that the LinkedIn team finished as the #1 Movember fundraiser in the US (#3 globally) by raising $250,000 in just 4 weeks, and in doing so, created a lasting impact on men’s health.

5 Keys to Building a Winning Charity Team

  1. Build a fan base, encourage them to cheer furiously. Your fan base is your employees and their social networks. Before you launch any effort, figure out who you want to support this initiative, and get them fired up. Our fan base grew as our coaches implemented “plays” like a chili cook-off, karaoke and beer night, and a pie eating contest.  We even auctioned off the “design” of some Mobro’s moustaches to the highest bidder. Word got out. Our fans fell in love with the team and cheered, then donated.

  1. Sponsors will help you build the most amazing stadium. Executive sponsorship is critical to create groundswell internally. We successfully recruited global and local executive leadership and focused heavily on recruiting our Mo-sistas, in what had been a predominantly male team in previous years. One key LinkedIn executive, who was personally impacted by prostate cancer, pledged on a global video conference hosted by our CEO to “match” whatever we raised. The race was on and we leveraged his pledge as our collective inspiration and motivation. Find and woo a sponsor or two, then amplify their support across the organization. Sometimes the stadium is part of the draw.

  1. Hire coaches for everything. Great football teams don’t only have a great head coach. They have amazing defensive coaches, special teams coaches, and management. We took everyone who expressed any interest to task and asked for their help. We had fundraising drives, brewed and sold beer, traded donations internally, traded donations externally. We asked our technology team to post notices on internal company networks. Each office had at least one lead, and each lead leveraged their network to hang posters, talk about Movember in meetings, and motivate their teammates and colleagues. Our coaches communicated weekly on a global basis and shared best practices. We were on the field for 4 weeks, and analyzing the heck out of every play. Build your team of coaches first, then give them the autonomy to help their “teams” shine.

  1. When the clock is running out, make sure the entire team knows. Urgency doesn’t exist unless someone articulates the “why.”    The clock runs out twice in most charity events. The first “clock” to focus on is the start date. Warming up your potential fan base of donors is a critical first step. We set a goal of raising $200,000 to double last year’s event. We shared this across the organization, and ensured that we maximized the number of registered Mobro’s and Mosista’s across all locations. The second “clock” is the event end date. We had an incredibly short November with the odd placement of the Thanksgiving holiday, so we provided weekly updates and pushes to our global team, tracking progress, and how much time was left. This instilled a sense of urgency that translated to Thanksgiving weekend becoming our final and most successful push for donations across the entire event. By the end of Movember, more than 500 LinkedIn employees joined the cause. Bookend your event with deliberate urgency.

  1. Your end zone dance has to be Epic. Celebrating your champions publicly is critically important during a charity event. We tracked leaders across the four week period, recognized our top Mosista’s and Mobro’s, and publicly thanked them for their hard work. They, in turn, helped us spread the word about our success internally at LinkedIn. As a result of this groundswell, our employees continued to sign up right through the end of the event, if just to collect $20 from a family member.

We are still dancing, and donations are still coming in. If you’re inspired to donate to our cause, check out our team fundraising page.

Next Play? $500,000 in 2014. Go Team!