It is second nature to Hartsook clients and followers: the donor’s challenges are our challenges. I met Martin Eby more than 30 years ago. He was a very successful contractor in Wichita, succeeding his father in the company that exists today. I would see Martin periodically as we were building the Hartsook Companies in Wichita. Each time, I would ask Martin how business was. As many of you know, I am sincerely interested in people and their businesses. On almost every occasion, Martin would tell me, “Bob, I can only see out about six months.”As I grew Hartsook, I learned up firsthand that what Martin was describing was the ebb and flow of almost every small business in America. So when you ask for a gift and a pledge from such people, they have to commit to something years out. Their reality is “they can only see out about six months.” This understanding led Hartsook to begin something that has become a staple of our major gifts practice: “We will ride the highs and lows of your business.” While I can’t discuss the name of the donor to SMMC, Lou Gehring had taken a donor—who is very generous, but usually gives $10,000 and maybe a big gift of $25,000—to a million dollar commitment. As Lou told the class after about nine months of cultivation and education with the donor, he presented him with a million dollar request. He shared the plan with the donor, but this donor didn’t understand how committed the hospital was to giving him the flexibility. After reading the proposal letter, this donor turned to Lou and said, “This is remarkable. No nonprofit has ever given me this flexibility. This clearly shows you understand the financials of an entrepreneur. I can do the gift.”A million dollar gift happened because a fundraiser didn’t do what most fundraisers would. Most would propose equal payments spread over a set number of years, no flexibility, and would have walked away with $10,000.It happened also in Tulsa with DVIS, a domestic violence organization in a $20 million capital campaign. There wasn’t quite the drama, but when they asked an early donor who was very close to the million dollar question, they included the flexibility of giving on the donor’s terms and not on the nonprofit’s schedule. Again, the donor, who will announce the gift later said he couldn’t have done this but for the flexibility.So in 10 days, hundreds of miles apart, two good philanthropists became extraordinary million dollar givers. All because the fundraiser showed them how.This isn’t a gimmick. This is a philosophy of building trust, respect and sharing values between the donor and the nonprofit.By the way, this is how I give money. I expect the nonprofit to ride with the highs and lows of my business. Why wouldn’t we treat people the way we want to be treated? It’s not just nice, it grows philanthropy.
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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