A ‘Major’ New Adventure

May 17, 2017 by Gary Heise

“Progress always involves risks. You can’t steal second base and keep your foot on first.” – Fredrick B. Wilcox

Sometimes when an opportunity arises, you just have to take it. There’s a nudge in your spirit and a pull in your heart that says, “I need to do this.” For Premier Sports Management, it wasn’t just a single opportunity, but a series of moments that begged us to say “yes” and move forward in a direction that was clearly opening doors not only for us but also for our current and future clients.

It all started through our relationship with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). Several years ago, the world’s largest sports ministry, whose world headquarters shares our home location of Kansas City, asked us to help produce an event for their major donors and investors that would allow them to cast the ministry vision, inspire the audience regarding the organization’s impact and make a significant financial appeal.

With our respect for FCA and our number of shared values, we agreed. The results were staggering, going way above and beyond our highest expectations for success.

The concept of what would be called a “major donor event” was simple but precise. It involved bringing likeminded people with a common cause into an inspiring setting for a multi-day event in which we poured value into their lives with world-class speakers and performers and intertwined the mission of the organization and shared stories of impact. We presented an opportunity for the organization to engage deeper with some of its key donors/investors and created a great venue for them to introduce their mission to new potential partners.

The major donor event relied on three I’s:
Immersing a group of successful and likeminded people in a captivating atmosphere (think high-end resort).
Inspiring them with passionate messaging, stories of impact and a big vision for a common cause.
Igniting them to engage deeper with the organization and to make a significant, multi-year financial commitment.

As we continued to produce these events, we were repeatedly amazed and what would happen as a result. It was clearly more than just about the financial resources that were raised, though that was a big part of it. People who were casually supportive of a cause left being “all-in” and ready to do whatever needed to be done to further it. Today’s major donors want to do more than just write a check; they want to see and be part of what they’re supporting, and these events were giving them what they needed to find their footing in their nonprofit of choice.

As time went on, my wife and I would have periodic conversations about the potential for this kind of event to be replicated for a greater number of ministries and cause-based organizations.

Fast forward to 2014. Through shared sports connections, our team had started to develop a relationship with the founder and CEO of the global humanitarian organization Samaritan’s Feet, Manny Ohonme. While sitting at the Final Four together that year, I shared with Manny the concept of the major donor events, and I remember clearly when his eyes lit up. He caught the vision and the potential and expressed his interest in doing one for Samaritan’s Feet.

We put it on the books for Spring 2015 and got to work.

Now, because Samaritan’s Feet was a relatively small organization, it was critical that this be successful. While our team was confident in the process, the question still lingered in the back of our minds regarding whether or not we could help a smaller nonprofit pull this off.

By the end of April 2015, we knew our answer: yes.

The first-ever major donor event for Samaritan’s Feet proved to be transformational for them as an organization. Not only did it raise the bar financially for their organization, but it also created a new level of engaged partners. To see what this event meant to a smaller ministry like that and how it took them to a new level inspired us. Another “ah-ha” moment, you could say.

Then, a key individual from our client base who saw first-hand the power of Premier’s leadership in these donor events, came to Kansas City and personally challenged me to expand what we were doing in this space.

Thus began a new journey for us over the past year. We now have worked with several cause-driven organizations to produce major donor events—all with the same transformational results. And we are putting together a plan to grow this valuable area of service. You see, the thing that lights a fire under us when it comes to these events is the amount of meaningful impact they make. They’ve allowed us to take our experience and talents in the sports industry and put them to use for world-changing organizations. That is incredibly inspiring and rewarding.

As it says on our homepage, for more than 25 years Premier Sports Management has partnered with the most prestigious sports organizations in the world to build their brands and increase customer loyalty. We’ve enjoyed producing world-class events such as the NFL 101 Awards, National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame Induction and others, and we’re looking forward to many years ahead of continuing to bring excellence to our sports clients. That being said, we’re also venturing into a new territory—one that allows us to combine our talents and experience for lasting significance. We couldn’t ask for anything better.

Stay tuned!

– Gary Heise
Chief Executive Officer