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Fight for Iowa

4 Lessons for Nonprofits From Iowa Hawkeye Win Over Over Ohio State

Whatever you can do to a Buckeye—shellack, roast, soak, toast, chop, peel, finely ground, boil, crush, smash, cut, peel, and wait for it…a-salt—the Iowa Hawkeyes did last night in a stunning 55-24 rout of Ohio State. Iowa didn’t just beat the number three ranked team in the nation, they dominated the entire game from the very first play, and on both sides of the ball.

This was an epic win. It will last forever in Iowa Hawkeye football lore.

As the mission of Gordon Fischer Law Firm is to promote and maximize charitable giving in Iowa, I can’t help but think the smart and gritty play of the Hawks last night hold lessons for nonprofits too. Here are four:

Don’t Stop Believin’

If the Hawks went into the game without believing, truly believing, that they could win, well, it simply would have been a self-fulfilling prophecy. Whether you are trying to snag new donors, put into place some long-needed policies and procedures, get approval from the IRS to become a nonprofit – whatever your goal – you’ve got to start with a belief in yourself and your organization that you can match the mission to the moment.

Think Outside the Box

The Iowa Hawkeyes used two trick plays last night. There was a fake punt (from inside their own 20-yard line!) and also move called the Polecat Play. When facing a formidable opponent, or formidable goal, maybe the same-ole’, same ole’ won’t work. You may need to get creative.

Now, remember, for nonprofits, when you say, “think outside the box,” that box is essentially the IRS. So get good legal counsel to be sure you’re not being too creative and are in fact in full compliance with all laws and regs. But, the right kind of creativity is sometimes necessary when facing long odds.

Get Your Crowd into the Game

You need your fans for that extra juice—that extra bit of adrenaline. While you may not be able to fill Kinnick Stadium with supporters, you do have many folks who’ll help you in a wide variety of ways, and sometimes moral support and cheerleading is just what you need.

Iowa Hawkeye Fans

Take It One Play (Day) At a Time

The odds may seem insurmountable. For example, you’ve been trying to tackle the redo of your governing documents forever, and you just can’t ever seem to get there. Remember to take it a day/play at a time. Break it down.

Say you want to revise your general Independent Contractor Agreement, last looked at in the 1970s when Bob Commings was the Iowa Hawkeye football coach? Start with small steps. Something like this would be a good drill:

  • Distribute the aging document to the board of directors.
  • Explain why it needs updating.
  • Especially explain why your organization would work better with updated agreements, and/or what risks would be mitigated with updated agreements.
  • Form a committee to find competent counsel.
  • Hire a lawyer experienced in nonprofit law to look over and re draft.
  • Share the drafts back and forth between your lawyer and your committee until “perfect.”
  • Share the new Independent Contractor Agreement with the board of directors for final approval, and don’t forget to thank the board members who helped. And, be sure to celebrate reaching your goal!

Taking it one play at a time, suddenly revising major documents isn’t so overwhelming anymore.


I’d love to help coach your nonprofit to greater success. I offer a free one-hour consultation to anyone/everyone. Just email me at gordon@gordonfiscerlawfirm.com or call me on my cell at 515-371-6077. Together we’ll figure out a game plan that’s both sensible and affordable.

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