As you start reading this blog, understand that I know I am no Steve Jobs. Ask anyone — I was wearing those black mock turtle necks before he was.But his story gives me an opportunity to raise a point.Okay now that I have your attention, I want to talk about thinking.I hear you: Oh, no, Bob is on that “We need Thinking Fundraisers” training again. We get it. We don’t need to think about this again.Yeah, you do.Our country is in a financial crisis.Government support is going away from nonprofits, I just had a client in Tulsa who got a “no, not this year” from the feds. The charitable deduction level for the wealthiest is on the chopping block. Every state is reducing their support and turning to the private sector. Kansas just lost its federal arts funding. Not all of the Farm Bill was funded, leaving hunger agencies looking for money. Missouri cut its support of private colleges by 60 percent last year. State support of public universities has dropped so far one state college calls itself “state sited” rather than “state supported” or even “state assisted.”Blame the Republicans. Blame the President. Blame our Congress. Just blame.But why does it matter? No matter who or what you blame — or even if you don’t — the fact is, we are in trouble.When I was growing up, whenever I complained about something my mom would say (hear an Australian accent to get the full effect), “Robert, what are you going to do about it?” She was always the first to remind me that I had a responsibility. If I didn’t do anything about it, I had no complaining rights.By the way, she inspired the Hartsook Institutes, the only exclusively fundraising academic institution in the world. Another time, I’ll talk about all she inspired. Did you know she inspired the camera in your phone?Kidding, of course but I am trying to keep you on the Steve Jobs track.Even with all this economic difficulty, there is enough money for those causes that someone cares about. Contrary to popular belief, major gift fundraising is actually up.Soon, Hartsook will be releasing a Success Story on the creation of Initiative Fundraising and how it grows safety net institutions. Many look at the model and see it as a public relations gimmick or something they already do. It is neither. It is a way to respect donors as the major investors they are so you can raise the money needed to fulfill your mission.I’m still combing through everything I can about Steve Jobs and his life. I know if I look hard enough, he can inspire me about how to teach nonprofits that they can raise substantial sums of money doing something they didn’t know they needed to do.
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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