As I was listening to ESPN the other morning . . . Wait, Bob Hartsook listens to ESPN?Sometimes. Okay—rarely, but that’s beside the point.Back to my comment . . .A national anchor was interviewing a bookie who runs the largest gambling facility in the world. I don’t have any idea what a gambling facility is, but this person owns it.According to this guy, Americans will spend $560 billion on sports gambling in the USA this year. Just so you know I was listening, Las Vegas is a small part of that betting world. Learning is my passion.Did you read that? $560 Billion?According to the IU Philanthropy Center’s Giving Report, about $300 billion is given away in philanthropy each year. Because you’re reading this, I’m guessing you already know I am a critic of the amount of philanthropy we give. We take pride in this amount, but so many needs go unmet while the growth of philanthropy is hardly a growth.But the growth in gambling is real.Gambling doesn’t have a Gambling Center at a prestigious university, but as I have been able to assemble the data, in 2008 $500 billion was gambled; 2007, $430 billion; 2006, $360 billion . . . then the data begins to drift. (Maybe I should start a Center on Gambling Data for America . . . right after I start my Center on Alcohol Consumption, my Center on Vice Predictions, and my … well you get it).I know I am preaching to the choir.Speaking of the choir, do you realize that of the charity dollars we provide, only $100 billion goes to religion? While $560 billion goes to gambling! I am not into guilt, but seriously?!?Our problem with philanthropy isn’t wealth. We all know there is plenty of that to go around. The problem is how we as fundraisers access wealth. (You knew I would get to the fundraiser eventually, didn’t you)?We access wealth through the quality of fundraisers. I am the first to take responsibility! I am at fault that the separation between philanthropy and gambling is $260 billion. While I may have had my successes, it wasn’t enough. I haven’t done my job. But that is ending.Maybe we should set a philanthropy goal that equates philanthropy to gambling spent. After all, in good times and bad, the bookies keep after the gambler to find hope. But in bad times, fundraisers back off of hope. We make excuses about why people don’t give.Yet in this time of financial difficulty, our company counsels with food banks that are knocking home runs in fundraising; think tanks that are raising the highest goals ever; museums that are setting limits to the amount donors can give; hospitals that are setting records; and universities that are paying bonuses to fundraisers and faculty because fundraising goals are being exceeded.It isn’t the economy, stupid. It is the fundraiser.Let’s all challenge the status quo, because it’s clearly not good enough. Let’s stand up for improvement in fundraising education and preparation.Am I bold enough to think we can actually affect the amount of philanthropy that takes place annually?You bet.
Will You Be There When John Shamberg Calls?
A big part of fundraising is showing up and being available. I learned this lesson on a very memorable New Year’s Eve, a very long time ago.
As an eager young fundraiser working for Washburn University, I didn’t know that it was unusual still to be at work in the evening of December 31st. But, there I was.
Earlier that year, a graduate of Washburn University School of Law told me he was going to give a gift of land to his synagogue, a private K-12 school and Washburn. John Shamberg, who has since passed away, made millions of dollars for institutions all over the world, and he wanted to give a significant gift to organizations he valued. His 40 acres of land on the outskirts of Kansas City were valued at $450,000, and his intention was to give $150,000 each to three organizations.
He’d left the task to the last day of the year, but now he was ready to make it happen.
He called the synagogue. No answer.
He called the K-12 school. No answer.
Then, he called Washburn and got me.
“Bob,” he said, “you just won the jackpot!”
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