Of particular interest to fundraisers is a key finding of the Charlotte-based Bank of America (BOA) Study on giving patterns of high net worth individuals. In this study, we discovered who these individuals consult with when they think about giving. It’s not, as we might have guessed, their lawyer or accountant (or, as BOA would have liked to hear, their Trust Officer). Shared wisdom would say they would consult with a peer—but that answer was second on the list. The first person high net worth individuals consult with when thinking about giving is the fundraiser or staff of the organization that is going to get the gift. Read that again. The fundraiser is the critical piece in closing the gift.Certainly, I knew this instinctively after watching it happen repeatedly over 36 years in the field. But now this gut feeling and experiential knowledge is validated through research that can be used to improve the field. Fundraising has been good to me. I intend to be good to the profession. So, we are on a quest. Our endowment a couple of years ago of the Hartsook Chair in Fundraising at Indiana University’s Center on Philanthropy was based on a desire to make a difference in the preparation and research for fundraising—not philanthropy, but fundraising. The appointment of Dr. Adrian Sargeant as the Chair was the first extraordinary achievement. Together, we have begun a plan to improve the preparation of fundraisers.Our quest is to create and implement a reliable tool to measure the competency of the fundraiser so that employers can know they are hiring skilled, talented professionals. Secondly, we are a part of a large movement to expand and improve the research on fundraisers so those who practice this “profession” have something other than great stories to base their work on. Finally, we are working on a delivery system that will give practitioners the information they need to be more effective. This is a big undertaking, and we are taking it seriously. Certainly, IU is not the exclusive voice in this effort. But it is the focused voice. For too many years, the fundraising profession has survived on storytelling, default appointments, and apprenticeships. Every now and then, we might come across a study, say, “gee whiz,” and go on with business as usual. But it is a different day.Fundraisers, take note: many changes are on the horizon for your profession. To start, I challenge you to take the research and use it in your work. Because as the research indicates —when we elevate fundraisers, we elevate the profession and philanthropy.
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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