I just talked to my friend who is also my personal banker and is in charge of giving for his bank in my home town. He is a great guy who cares about philanthropy. He has been supportive of me in the community. In our conversation, I told him that the Giving USA Report had come out and 2009 went down 3%. He said, “Bob, I came to your house for that reception, and a fundraiser for a local museum and another for a social service organization came up to me and asked to visit sometime. I said ‘sure.’ That was seven months ago and neither has called me.”Did you get that? Neither one called in over a seven month period!Giving went down $10,000 as a result of negligence on the part of two fundraisers.I know both of them. They had both had talked a lot about how difficult fundraising was for them in this economy. And yet, they walked away from a gift.That baffles me. Why would they do that? Are they too busy to raise money? Are they worn out by “beating the streets?” Did they say “no” for him? What do you have to do?It reminded me of a fundraiser for a domestic violence facility who said last year, “This is why we have reserves. We shouldn’t be asking people for gifts now. Nobody is giving any money away.”So three different fundraisers, for very different causes, bought into the common view that no one was giving away.Did you see the latest Chronicle on Philanthropy article on 50 large institutions that have had increased fundraising in the first quarter at more than 30% over the past year?You may be hearing two stories. One story is that “people are saying” no one is giving money away. The other is based on fact and last quarter data on actual dollars raised. It says money is available for those who are willing to go the extra mile, get creative, and demonstrate a compelling, urgent need.Which story do you choose to believe?
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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