Well, when you get older, you find you’ve accumulated a lot of good and wonderful friends. Others my age brag about their grandchildren, but since I don’t have any yet (I’m very happy about that – my son is only 22!), I like to brag on my friends.A few weeks ago, my friend Bill Dunn and his wife Jean were selected as Philanthropists of the Year in Kansas City. Most of you don’t know Bill, but I do. He is a rare man. His philanthropy is personal, important, and vital.In anticipation of having the opportunity to say a few words about Bill at the awards banquet, I did some research. In the past 21 years, Bill, his wife, and each of his children—now even grandchildren are members of the leadership of his large construction company—have worked with our company on 612 occasions.When I announced this fact at the event, there was a standing ovation. While I would like for Bill to be involved in all my projects, he is not. With the Salvation Army alone, I can think of nearly a dozen projects in the Kansas City area in which the Dunn family was involved. Think about it: considering his service to his community, those 612 occasions are a drop in the bucket.I talk a lot about research, using data and pushing ourselves as fundraisers to elevate the profession by thinking, acting and being smarter. After all, it is no exaggeration to say we are a critical link in making sure there is enough to meet all of society’s needs. And we must continue to enforce the idea that there is enough—there is! It’s our job to find it, link those who care and have the capacity to impact change, and make sure our institutions are gracious and responsible recipients of these gifts.But every now and then I have to pause to step off my soap box.While pushing for and helping create a research and knowledge based education for fundraisers is certainly important, so is the impact of the Dunn family. But I understand that counting the Dunn’s projects borders on complete nonsense. We could drive ourselves mad trying to count the impact of these gifts—it is literally immeasurable.Bill and Jean, you embody the spirit of the award. Congratulations on your selection. You are much more than philanthropists of the year. In my book—and it’s a hefty one—you are Philanthropists of the Century.
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!”
Go here to read the full article