If you have followed my blog for any time, you know that I am a student of writing and a graduate of how not to write. I won’t bore you with how I prepare to write, but suffice it to say that writing doesn’t come naturally to me. Those of you who have read my writing are thinking, “Tell me something I didn’t know.” I may not know everything about writing, but I know when something is wrong—especially when it’s someone else’s writing!In the world of “how not to write,” here’s something that drives me crazy: stating the obvious and putting me to sleep.I cringe every time a highly respected national university issues news releases and information to their trustees. The thesis sentence is always, “Great University of a Terrific City has announced for its College of Dentistry a gift from a long time alum who has participated in many activities . . . who has earned the prestigious 19XX Nobel Prize in medicine for discovering a virus which causes severe disease, Dr. Bill Jones, of someplace we don’t care about, America.What’s wrong with this?1. We know what University it is. It’s email, so we saw the sender before we opened it.2. We know where the University is. We wouldn’t be reading it if we didn’t know.3. We are grateful this person has participated in many activities, but that is not the story.4. Does anybody not know the Nobel Prize? Does it need introduction?5. Who was awarded the prize? By the time we get to that, we’ve nodded off.After about a dozen of these, no one is reading them. And even more disheartening, no one cares.The Nobel Prize has been awarded to Dr. Bill Jones, ’70 alum of the Dentistry program for his research in denture place.Which would you read?I implore you to think about who you are talking to and what you want to say before you send something out. You can take every opportunity to communicate something substantive, worthwhile and memorable to your audience. Or not.
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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