This blog was originally posted in 2010 but still very relevant today.My last blog about John Shamberg’s New Year’s Eve gift of land evoked the greatest response yet. I received notes and emails from across the country commenting on fundraisers being available on December 31.Ed from Emporia, Kans. wrote, “Bob, you are exactly right. A good friend of mine tried to make a gift to ABC College and they weren’t open to get the gift.”John from the Heritage Foundation in DC called me to tell me the story of a donor who called to make a gift and said, “You weren’t my first choice, but the other two weren’t open.”Robin from the Humane Society in Kansas City said, “I am here because so many of my donors like to come by during the holidays and we can have some time to talk.”Gene from Indiana University told me, “Our stock gifts are up and it helps to have someone there to help the donor make the gift.”Kristy from Geneva Hills in Lancaster, Ohio wrote, “I asked my entire staff to read the blog. It makes so much sense–we are going to be here.”Like I said I would, I called my clients and almost all were there, or they at least had a different number to call if someone needed personal help. I was proud.But the fun didn’t stop there. I get curious sometimes and can’t help myself. I decided to call a few national charities. I wondered if they were working hard to fill in the gaps since so many had been reporting that giving was down.I don’t want to out them, but of those I called, most of them were not open or had no mechanism to talk to an individual. You know me, I wouldn’t judge, but showing up—just being available and accessible—seems like the minimum effort they could make.I have to tell you one organization I called that offended me. File it in your “Never Do This” file.First, imagine it’s 2:30 EST New Year’s Eve and you’re a donor looking to make a gift to this organization. When you call, you hear a recording that says they are closed December 30 and 31, but if you wanted to make a gift you could call between 10 am and 2 pm.Why did this offend me? They clearly knew they should be available. They couldn’t even claim ignorance! But they wanted their donors to play by their rules rather than the donors’.With today’s technology, there is no excuse for not being available. Many of our clients just had their main numbers transferred to the fundraisers’ cell phone. Simple and sensitive.So I’m not just ranting, I want to mention one charity I called that was open. Feeding America not only gave a series of ways to give on their recording, but they also provided the option to enter a number and get a person. Good job! Maybe I’ll call it The John Shamberg Project (don’t know who John Shamberg is? You need to know—read my last blog). For this Project, we’ll have students call the top 100 charities in the country on December 31 to see if they are available to receive a gift. To make it fair, I think we will even write the CEO’s of those charities to put them on notice that we are going to do this. Then we’ll publish a list of those available.My goal here is not to embarrass any organization. My goal is to raise money, and a big part is showing up.Happy New Year! Let’s grow philanthropy in 2014.(By the way, I was corrected on the name of the Manhole Manufacturer: his name is Jim, not Bob, and yes, he is still alive and is still giving on New Year’s Eve. Thanks, Tom for that correction. Tell Jim “hello” for me).
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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