A dear friend of mine was listening to one or more of my many stories. She said, “You should write a book called Bob Wisdom.” Well, I have written a few books I thought were wise, but apparently she didn’t!This got me thinking about how I do think a lot about fundraising. In fact, I don’t know anyone who thinks about it more. I just may write that book soon. In the meantime, here I’ll share a few odds and ends that may qualify as wisdom that I’ve picked up over the years so I don’t forget them.Take pictures. If you don’t take a picture the event never happened. You let it disappear into thin air and rely on memory. Pictures make sure you are remembered and re-remembered. With today’s technology it is so easy. Have you ever finished an event, or have a donor with your CEO and said, “Gee, I wish I had taken a picture”? If so, you’ve never worked for me.Single and childless people are among the most generous at death. While only 5 percent of Americans give at death, single and childless have a 50 percent rate. Have you ever thought about who you know that fits this profile? If you have children, you need to be aware that you generally don’t know or socialize with people who don’t. Realize this and change it.Look for women in your constituency who use the prefix “Miss.” Lo These prospects are obviously single and don’t have children. They are a gold mine. One client found 300 such donors and resulted in 13 one million dollar or more gifts.Know who walks in your door. A wealthy but modest friend of mine was very sick and went to that well known clinic in Minnesota, (got it?). I was with him as he signed in at the clinic and as he was providing all of his information I remarked that they would be calling him at three that afternoon because they would have already run him through their wealth screening. Interestingly, at about 3 p.m. they called to see how his day went. Coincidence? I think not. His alma mater has not figured out that he loves them and would make a nice gift if they just paid some level of attention to him.Wealth screening is good business. While it’s not the answer to every question, it can certainly answer some of them. And, it’s become fairly routine in most institutions today. A good friend had the luxury of reading his own wealth screening document that was inadvertently attached to a collection of papers sent to him by the nonprofit. What a nice guy. Instead of being offended, he was amused. He corrected it and sent it back. By the way, don’t adopt this strategy! His institution got lucky. Very lucky.Anyone who knows me, knows I love these little bits of wisdom and stories that make rookie fundraisers pay attention, and smart fundraisers smarter. If you’ve been around a while like I have, you can sure spot the good fundraisers. I don’t know if it’s intuition, a keen eye, social intelligence, DNA or good old fashioned common sense. All I know is, some people have it and some people don’t.
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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