I’m not the first to notice a change in attitudes about people of wealth. Recently, USA Today published a top travel story called “Guilt trip” about luxury travelers toning it down or canceling vacations. The Associated Press identified a “stealth wealth” set that is hiding luxury purchases and shipping expensive items home rather than walking out of stores with them. Recently, I solicited comments from many of my friends regarding an inspirational, nonprofit fundraising article I had written. I wanted to see if they agreed with me that this was the best time in our country’s history to raise money. Well, I received a lot of interesting responses, but what I noticed was a “wealth divide.” From my wealthy friends, it was doom and gloom, “retreat,” and “don’t talk about doing well.” They talked about fear, anxiety, and they worry about the country. At the same time, the vast majority of them are doing fine. Their businesses may be challenged, their investments may be soft, their foundations may have taken a hit, but they are all going to be players in the future. These are the men and women I have relied on for years to be my positive inspirational support and now I am theirs! So what is the issue? The responsibility has shifted. As fundraisers, they need us to show them the way. One wrote me, “I learned in the past few months about how important the attitude of the fundraiser or the CEO is to my attitude about giving.” As fundraisers, we can join the chorus of doom and gloom or sing a different song. Those who know me won’t be surprised to learn I’m choosing the latter. I raise a lot of money as, I hope, a respected professional, but I also regularly give money away. A couple of weeks ago I personally gave away $750k to a couple of organizations. In one case it was with a group of people who gave $250k each to an organization they loved, but had never given to at this level before. The other group has a lot of money, but it is one I care about most. I am not the richest guy in America, and what I found were several others who weren’t either, but they were joining me. They, like me, were ready to stand up for what they believed. Each donor that contributed to this leadership campaign of which I was a part would tell you that they believed in my honesty and enthusiasm. My editor tells me people want to support what I support because they believe. The needs of our nation—whether for basic human needs or education, culture or health care—have not gone away. Why should we? Whether you believe me or not, roughly the same amount of money will be given away this year as last year. Will the causes you care about get the coin or close their doors? Don’t rely solely on my optimism and experience—trust what the research is telling you: It is up to you.
Photo credits: National WWI Museum
President and Trustee
The Sunderland Foundation
Recipient of the
2018 GROWING PHILANTHROPY AWARD FOR TRANSFORMATIONAL CAPITAL PHILANTHROPY
Kent Sunderland was presented with the prestigious Growing Philanthropy Award in Kansas City by Hartsook President and CEO
Matthew J. Beem during National WWI Museum and Memorial’s VIP event, Night at the Tower.
He was nominated by Matthew Naylor, Ph.D., President and CEO of the National WWI Museum and Memorial, and was selected unanimously by Hartsook Institutes and the International Board of Visitors Growing Philanthropy Committee.
Kent was Vice Chairman of Ash Grove Cement prior to its recent sale. As President of The Sunderland Foundation, he has played a significant role in advancing philanthropy with major gifts.
The Growing Philanthropy Award recognizes a distinguished group of individuals and organizations whose efforts increase philanthropy through research, innovation and challenging the status quo. For more information, contact [email protected].