“Bobby, We Gotta Get This Done!”Those words were spoken to me almost two years ago this week by a Texas Gentleman, Gerald Franklin. This Houstonian embodies everything you think about Texans and their love of their state. He is big, outspoken, dedicated and lovable.Gerald started a firestorm at the National Exchange Clubs and their Foundation in July, 2008.First, some background. You need to know that chief among Exchange’s service commitment is the prevention of child abuse. They have been after this for over 30 years and have established nearly 100 Child Abuse Prevention Centers across America. They are the leader of this movement, generating over $50 million a year for this cause through their Centers alone, and much more in the work each Exchange Club does through gifts and volunteerism. It is huge. Their impact on Child Abuse Prevention is well over $300 million. Nobody else is doing that.Gerald created this firestorm by hiring a fundraising firm to help them fund their Foundation’s efforts for the cause. We all like to think that philanthropy is easy and free. All kinds of issues that are commonly misunderstood arose. They don’t matter now, but as a national service organization, they are, of course, naturally very democratic. Everyone has a voice—in Exchange’s case that is 23,000 voices.I digress. But you need to know that Gerald is a former national president of Exchange and probably their largest contributor. But on that day when he signed the contract with our firm, Gerald said to me, “Bobby, we gotta do this. We have hired several others before you. This may be our last chance to get ‘er done.”On Thursday at the NEC National Convention, the Hartsook Institutes for Fundraising will honor Gerald Franklin with its prestigious Growing Philanthropy Award; his award will be for Persistence and Tenancy. Gerald joins a small but distinguished group of Growing Philanthropy Award recipients including the Heritage Foundation; The Kresge Foundation; Harvesters, America’s Food Bank, Past Senior Vice President of Purdue University Murray Blackwelder; and the Hartsook Chair in Fundraising at Indiana University, Adrian Sargeant. This is the only award that honors those people and institutions that aggressively go above and beyond not to just sustain philanthropy, but to literally grow it.Here is an illustration of what Gerald did in the first quarter of 2009. Do you remember that period, or are you like me—would you just as soon forget it?Our firm recommended that in order to gain confidence, Exchange establish a Challenge Gift of $1 million to start their $5.5 million campaign.But where would Exchange ever get such a Challenge? They as a national had not raised much money. While some clubs had done very well, the national organization had not.So we went to Gerald and asked him if he would provide leadership for assembling a select few of his Exchangites to commit $1 million. He not only agreed, but gave the first significant gift. That gift motivated Mike Jernigan of South Carolina to give, then Rick Gordon of Southern California, and then back to Gerald to give more, and back to Mike to give more, and finally to Ken Warner of Terre Haute to give . . . and guess what? Back to Gerald, while attending a rodeo to give one more time, rounding out the gift to $1 million.I could be wrong, but I think each of these pioneers gave the largest gift they had ever given in their lives—in the aftermath of the worst recession in American history.A new million dollars of philanthropy occurred on March 11, 2009. These four men grew philanthropy, and Gerald Franklin was their courageous leader. Each of them–“the Challenge Partnership”—nominated Gerald for this award.Exchange has until March 11, 2011 to raise $2 million more for a total of $3 million to get the $1 million Challenge Gift. In the first 16 months of the challenge they have raised $1.7 million. so they have raised a total of $2.7 million. They might well have the challenge met at their National Convention this month.Many of those who have given thus far have also given the largest gifts in their lives. They will be honored at the convention as well.Frankly each of the Challenge Partners deserves this award, but they all know Gerald was always behind them, supporting them, and guiding them. It rains a lot in Houston, but on July 23, 2010 day the sun will be shining a spotlight on Gerald.Who is that person in your organization who steadfastly, surely and tenaciously supports your fundraising? Have you considered where you would be, if not for this person?Have you not just thanked, but expressed your full appreciation to that person? If not now, when?
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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