You all know I love politics and while I have partisan opinions, I am blessed to be a political voyeur. I watch all the news channels and listen to all opinions.Well, four years ago, I sent $500 to Mike Huckabee in the Republican primary. You have to agree with me that he had a sense of humor and that group was so serious about themselves. They needed someone who could laugh at himself! It was nothing more, but as a result I have followed his career. He isn’t running for President now, and I’m not sure I would support him if he did.But in the political media, I saw a message from one of Huckabee’s advisors in the context of his decision to not run for President. The advisor says, “I cannot want this campaign more than he does.”That struck me. “I can’t want this campaign success more than he does.”We confront this issue every day with many of our clients. They want the money, but don’t want to do those things that are necessary to make it work. Of course, there are significant differences between political fundraising and nonprofit fundraising because of regulation on amounts and how it is given. Political fundraising is primarily cash, one time deals. But in both cases people are investing in dreams and objectives that they feel passionate about.Don’t get political on me. This message isn’t about politics or the presidential election. It is about passion and desire to do those things that are necessary to accomplish a goal.For most nonprofits, be they large or small the launching of a campaign for a new building or a program project is the moral equivalent to running for President or at least elective office. You are putting yourself out there to be judged.Fundraising is going through major change. While many people talk about how they like change, the truth is many have difficulty tolerating major change. The old fundamentals of fundraising are still important. Just like the fundamentals of any profession they have to be understood and respected. But the research tools are out there. They are either in social science research—serious discussion about why people give and not just techniques; or hard science–the research of donor’s capacity to give. This is just real and available.For many years, I have observed that everyone thinks someone else has a better deal.“Of course organizations who deal with hunger are going to raise more money. Everyone [there’s that everyone thing] is going to give to them.” Really? Then you haven’t heard the prospects who say, “Why don’t hungry people just get a job?” Or, “They can’t be hungry. Look how fat they are.” Or, “They will just take the money and buy drugs and alcohol.”“Everyone will give to education. It’s not hard to convince people how important education is to our society.” Really? Then you haven’t heard, “Those teachers are overpaid.” Or, “Teachers only work nine months out of the year.” Or, “This is why I pay taxes.”“Why wouldn’t someone give to the symphony? Arts are what culturally grounds us.” Really? Then they have not heard, “This is music for rich people.” Or, “Let those who want it pay for it.I could go on, but you get the point.Sometimes, the answers aren’t as easy as we would like, but you have to want it. Gifts to your institution are earned through hard, smart and tenacious work.You know I’ve been around, so listen up: if you don’t want them, someone else does.
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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