If I get one more summary of a survey posing as “research,” I am going to scream just to hear something real!Many companies, not unlike Hartsook, are surveying their clients on everything from ethics to giving to employee trends. These can be mildly interesting at times, but not reliable.I just saw that AFP presented the results of a survey in which 400+ participants reported that they have an ethics question once a month.What? Who are these 400 institutions? What does an ethics question mean? How was the sampling selected? Tell me why this should matter to me, other than an unnamed group of nonprofits responded to a survey. If we are not going to be told of the methods, then we have to rely on the source. This was AFP. I want to rely on this source.If we’re conducting surveys for entertainment value, I would be more interested in knowing who these nonprofits are and why they responded to a survey in the first place. Now, that is interesting.Some of you who follow this blog know that I criticized the Fenton Group when they issued a headline that two thirds of donors surveyed said they were going to give the same or less in 2010. That means only 11 percent were giving less. So the real headline should have been that 89% of donors were going to give more or the same in 2010. But that’s not news. It doesn’t send a shockwave of fear and panic to fundraisers everywhere.To conduct a survey that tells us in these times that every fundraiser is confronted with ethics issues monthly is not enough. In particular, it is not enough for the AFP to issue the results.Paulette Maehara and I were quoted in the Inside Higher Ed online news dealing with Charlie Rangle. The article was about what the fundraiser should have done ethically as he sat there while Rangle solicited a corporation. I appreciate that the fundraisers should have raised an issue, but do we think the corporation didn’t know that Rangle wasn’t going to know of the gift to the center that bore his name? Let’s not be naive about these things. If we are going to name things after politicians then we should know that when we ask for money, we are going to be criticized. By the way, I have little to nothing in common with Rangel, but this is not a situation where the fundraiser should take the heat.Let’s return to my point. A survey about whether fundraisers are confronted with ethical issues hardly raises the bar. Let’s not spin our wheels. Let’s go somewhere!Hartsook Institutes has decided not to do original research but we do intend to comment on others’ work. There is some good research out there, but it is few and far between, and it takes time, thought and serious attention. But for the most part, my comment about limited surveys is, “so what?”
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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