I have been so eager to write this blog, I couldn’t contain myself. Some of you know early in 2013 I had been sick with pneumonia, but on the day I had a 103 temperature I got an email from Jim Dawson, the CEO of Truman Medical Center Foundation (Kansas City). He was informing me that they had received a $2.3 million gift and had gone over their Mabee Foundation (Tulsa, OK) challenge, which meant an additional nearly $2 million. You know a $4 million+ day is a good day for anyone. But for Truman Medical Center Foundation, this had been a few years in coming. I got up from my sick bed to call Jim Dawson to tell him that he was my nominee for Fundraiser of the Year.As a result of all the excitement, I had a relapse and died, but at least Jim knew I cared.On the off chance I survived, I have written this.That is problem with this blog: I could mix too many things.But I am going to focus on Jim now.If you live in Kansas City, you know Jim Dawson. He was a founder of the Spirit Festival; was Chair of Starlight Theatre Board of Directors when Hartsook was counsel for their major campaign; he was a long time executive for Hallmark; senior executive of several other businesses; and recruited to TMC as their senior strategic manager (I am sure I didn’t get that title correct).But then after a challenging 18 months with the new TMC Foundation leadership following one of KC’s most beloved fundraisers, Terry Snapp, the TMC Board and President and CEO John Bluford asked Jim to take over the CEO role part-time, for a short time. Well, Jim already had a job, but what you learn about Jim is that he is a loyal, company man. So he took on the task, and for a couple of years he kept the ship running well. Over time he was the first to recognize that while he knew how to run an organization, fundraising management was a bit different. (By the way, Jim was responsible for one of the largest gifts to KC medicine by the Health Care Foundation of Greater KC of $7.5 million before he took on the Foundation responsibilities. He had credibility and integrity, qualities that usually help encourage funders to support institutions).Well, Jim was not shaped out of a traditional fundraising leadership model.So naturally there were questions. Like, “Who is Jim Dawson and why is he CEO of one of KC’s most important healthcare fundraising groups?”I was eager to learn more about the plans this new CEO had. I also had worked with all the previous Foundation’s CEOs except the last and counseled them on two capital campaigns, a $20 million plus campaign and a $55 million campaign over a 10 year period. Frankly, at some point I may have known more about the Foundation’s giving than they did.The bottom line is, Jim ultimately always wants to be successful. He is a Michigan State grad. He and I have become friends so I can tell you about his revolutionary masters degree study. I can tell you about his military record, and I can tell you about Crown Center Development, John Knox Village and a lot of good stories. The common factor in all of them is success.So now Jim had been charged with making this Foundation successful. He called me and put his toe in the water.Jim, I appreciate the opportunity. He learned that I wasn’t a loyalist to Mark, Terry or to anyone else. I was a fundraiser who was proud to have counseled the creation of resources for this safety net organization to thrive over a long period. It wasn’t personal; and yet, it was. My association with Truman Medical Center, as with almost all of my clients, has taught me about their industry. John Bluford is the shining star in my view. But shiny stars need Jim Dawsons. And Jim Dawson may not need—but the smart ones seek—the Bob Hartsooks.This blog has really gotten long, but I want to tell you that in a soon to be released blog, I am going to tell you more about Truman Medical Center Foundation’s campaign success. They still have a several hundred thousands of dollars to raise to meet the overall goal. As a result of Jim Dawson’s leadership, TMC will fund a partnership with KU’s oncology program with national perspective, needed TMC medical equipment, a children’s dental initiative and other needs. They met the Mabee Grant, raised three $2 million plus gifts, and reestablished TMC Foundation as one of the top KC medical fundraising giants.By the way, Congrats to Jim Dawson. I know it is early for 2013, but you are my nominee for Fundraiser of the Year.
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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