Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart.  Just before he died he wrote a book about the 10 reasons he was successful, Made in America.

"Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart. Just before he died he wrote a book about the 10 reasons he was successful, Made in America."

I was speaking in Houston with the Association of Major Symphony Orchestra Volunteers with representatives from LA, Indy, Denver, Seattle, Houston, Dallas, Phoenix, Nashville and many other points across the US and Canada.  It was a great group of dedicated men and women.As I was ending the presentation a volunteer asked me, “Where do we find these donors who could give us big gifts?”I was taken aback.  That is what I had just been talking about for an hour and a half.  My first thought was, “What didn’t I do to connect with that person, helping them understand my message?  It must be my fault.”Rather than deconstruct my message and assign blame, I chose to answer the question.On the surface, there is an easy answer for a symphony.  The big gifts are with their subscribers.  Ron Fredman, the head of fundraising at Houston Symphony and a former Hartsook Consultant, told me about how busy he had been with hardly a day off during the season.What other nonprofit has their supporters come out and sit in the same place every month or week or on occasion?  Higher Ed? No.  Health Care? No.  The only one I could think of outside of the performing arts was independent education when the families line up every morning to drop off their children.But Ron is right and he knows he has to be there every day.So my friend from LA, those are your prospects.  There may be others, but until you have screened, solicited and engaged all of those, they are your prospects.My presentation that day focused on ways to engage those prospects and learn where the gift opportunity was.  My book, Nobody Wants to Give Money Away, lays out he principles behind this.As I was standing there, Sam came to mind.  Sam who?  Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart.  Just before he died he wrote a book about the 10 reasons he was successful, Made in America.  I wrote about it at the time, and the article was originally published by Fundraising Management Magazine and then reprinted in my first book, Closing That Gift.You know what Sam’s number 10 strategy was?Oh, come on I have written about this many times.  Okay, you in the third row, fifth from the end, what did he say?”Keep your prices low.”Hey, talking about fundraising!  No, that isn’t it.The final strategy is, “When everyone is moving in one direction, opportunity frequently lies in the opposite.”I hear you.  Bob, what does that have to do with fundraising?  Two quick stories.In 2001 and again in 2009, many American nonprofits stopped raising money preferring to allow the nonprofit media to lead them to the conclusion that “nobody was giving money away.”  So most of America was moving in the direction of not asking for money and giving their donors a day off (actually, at least a year).  I remember one fundraiser telling me this is why we have reserves.  That made me cringe.  Appalling.Philanthropy by most accounts dipped 3%, while the markets dropped 40%.  In both periods Sam echoed in the ear of Hartsook: Now is a time to raise money.  Our clients were encouraged to be aggressive and eager, reminding our donors we need them more than ever.In 2001 and again in 2009, we pushed our clients who were qualified to apply to those foundations and institutions who were not as severely affected as others.In 2001 we pushed 21 nonprofits in the final 60 days of the year to go to a major foundation who gives to capital projects and ask for major gifts, up to $1.6 million.  All of them received the challenge gifts.  Again in the last 100 days of 2009 we did the same thing, gaining for our clients $34 million and raising, as a result of the challenges $185 million.  The Kresge Foundation of Troy, Mich. opened their qualifications to include community colleges, and several of our clients were among the early receivers of gifts up to $1.1 million.  All told now, over $10 million in challenge grants were received, raising over $100 million for community college education in America.When you were a kid and pleaded with your mother, “Everyone is doing it,” she knew what Sam knew. I can hear her now: “If your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it, too?”Don’t lead your organization off a bridge.  “Everyone” is not always the smart one.Opportunity lies in the opposite direction.