Did John Shamberg Call You?

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!

Next year, I am thinking about creating a class project for my graduate students in the Hartsook Institute Masters Degree at Avila.  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).

Are You Ready for John Shamberg’s Call?

As a fundraiser, part of the deal is showing up.  My clients know that on New Year’s Eve, I call each of them.  If I get them, I offer them my best holiday wishes and cheer.  If I don’t reach them, they get THE LECTURE.

Believe me, you don’t want THE LECTURE.

Here is the nice version.

As an eager young fundraiser working for Washburn University, I didn’t know that I wasn’t supposed to work on December 31.  So I was there.

A law graduate of the University, John Shamberg, had told me all year long that he was going to gift some land to his synagogue, his private K-12 School and Washburn Law School.  I didn’t think much about it other than I remembered his promise.

On December 31, John called me.  He told me a story that has made millions of dollars for institutions all over the world.  Typical of lawyers, he had put off his gift of land until the very last minute.  His 40 acres was on the outskirts of Kansas City – 119th and Blackbaud Road – and it was worth $450,000.  His intention was for each institution to get $150,000.

Guess what?  When he called the synagogue, no one answered.  When he called the K-12 School, again no one answered.  When he called Washburn, Bob answered.  John, who has since passed away, said, “Bob, you just won the jackpot!”

Washburn got the land.  Not that we didn’t have to work for it.  I had to go to John’s office; there was paperwork that had to be filed.  It was New Year’s Eve and the Register of Deeds had closed, so we couldn’t file the transfer.  Those of you close to the law will understand – we had to go to the property and claim it.  Our Dean, Carl Monk, came to Kansas City from Topeka and he, John and I went to this then remote location.

John and Carl went to the center of the property, where John said, in his loudest voice, “I declare that this property has been given by me, John Shamberg, to Washburn University Law School and its Dean, Carl Monk.”

Carl then moved to the center of the space and announced to no one, “I, Carl Monk, Dean of the Washburn Law School accept and receive this land on behalf of the School.”

We then all had a glass of wine and celebrated.

Well, Washburn kept that land for many years and sold it for nearly $4 million a couple of years ago. Not a bad gift, John.

When I was a fundraising staff person, that story kept me by the phone at the end of the year for my entire career.  Bob, who owned a manhole company, called and gave $47,000 in closely held stock.  Frank and Patsy made a million dollar payment on their pledge.  Sylvia finally decided it was time to endow that opera scholarship and wrote a check for $100,000.

Every year, something happened and it still does.

Well, you don’t know when, you don’t know how, you don’t know why.  But if you are my client, I will be calling to see if you nonprofits are open and ready to accept an end of the year gift.

Trust me, it might be worthwhile to be in.  There’s a good chance your John Shamberg will call.

Fundraising Lessons from a Shuttle Driver

From guest blogger Jeffrey Trimbath, Senior Regional Manager at The Heritage Foundation

For many of us in development, travel is part of our weekly existence.  Like most of you who’ve spent several years in the profession, I’ve been treated to my share of folks working in the travel industry who don’t do a very good job.  That is why I was so impressed with a recent shuttle bus driver and the many lessons he could teach us about fundraising.

His name was Kevin and he drove for a parking lot located near a major airport on the eastern seaboard.  My wife and I were returning from a weekend getaway early on a Sunday afternoon when I noticed several things he did that set him apart.

After pulling the van to the curb, he nearly jumped out of the seat and vigorously picked up our two bags.  We climbed into the bus and noticed he was laughing with some of the other passengers.  This wasn’t unusual, other than I could tell that Kevin seemed to enjoy what he was doing.  But that was only the beginning.

I looked down on one of the seats and I saw three small, plastic tubs full of snacks – peanuts, candy, gum and breath mints.  On each of the containers were signs taped to the outside: “Help yourself – 2 per guest, please.”  And there was a sign on them underlined, “Driver’s Expense.”  As my wife and I took my seat, the driver brought them back to us and said “would you like a snack?” and we helped ourselves.

There also was pleasant music playing, a welcome change from the typical, obnoxious music that reflected the juvenile taste of too many shuttle drivers.

We sped off from the airport and the driver started his announcements on the loudspeaker. “Welcome to the shuttle, ladies and gentlemen.  I am glad you made it safely back from your trip.”  Although not unusual, the tone and the energy were a bit strange – he actually sounded like he was glad to see us.  I was surprised at the way in which his opening comment made me feel valued.  But there was more, so much more.

Kevin continued, “Shortly we will be arriving at our parking lot, where I will call out your number.  If you could please tell me the make and model of your car, I will be able to drive to your spot more quickly.  Then, once we arrive, if you could please hop off the bus and allow me to carry your bags, you can warm up your car more quickly.”  I thought this level of direction was a bit minute, but it was all for a purpose.

The driver approached the first passenger’s spot and he quickly located the car.  Once stopped, the driver hopped up, grabbed the passenger’s bags, and said “trunk or backseat?”  The passenger specified, and Kevin put the luggage where instructed.  Then, as is customary, Kevin received the tip.  But instead of just saying “thank you,” he said “Thank you very much for your generosity; how very kind of you.”  Generosity? Kindness?  Most times, this is just a sterile, transactional way of conducting business: “I carry your bags, you give me a tip, and I move on to the next customer.”  But Kevin elevated this simple act to something much more special – to philanthropy, to an expression of virtue.  Several more customers experienced the same kind of prompt, expert treatment at Kevin’s direction, and each gave a tip that was no doubt much more than they intended to give when they started—and was recognized and gratefully acknowledged each time.

My wife and I were the last to be dropped off, and the only couple on the bus.  Instead of grabbing our bags, Kevin jumped off the bus and ran to open my wife’s door.  Then he came back and asked where to place our luggage.  As he lifted the bags, he made very nice comment about our very average 2004 Sienna Minivan with 114K miles.  I happily tipped him well and he showed his sincere gratitude.

Jill and I were blown away by this experience for so many reasons.  Obviously, Kevin’s energy, enthusiasm and encouragement were a refreshing change in the oftentimes routine, boring and transactional world of business travel.  But he did more than just bring energy to his task.

Kevin did everything he could to make us feel valued and special, and thus increased the likelihood of a higher tip.  Every movement, every word and every sound was intentionally employed to get us to show our gratitude to him.  And yet, I never once felt manipulated or used.  I felt like this professional was proudly and skillfully executing his craft, and I felt truly valued.

Isn’t that what we are called to do as fundraisers?  We are called to do everything we can with energy and enthusiasm for our institution.  But we are also called to use every opportunity – every phone call, email, note and donor visit – to inspire our investors to give even more to our cause.

Are you taking advantage of every tool at your disposal to make this happen?  Of course we cannot make our donors give any more than Kevin could make us give him a tip.  But we can do everything under our control, and take advantage of every opportunity, to increase the likelihood that they will.  And we can do this in a way that honors our donors, rather than making them feel manipulated or used.  After taking today’s ride with Kevin, that is exactly what I am hoping to do.

If I Could Only Be Jim Tangeman


My life has been like most, built of one influence at a time.  Jim Tangeman is one of those HUGE influences that began 41 years ago when he hired me as Dean of Students at Colby Community College at 21 years of age.  He had just been appointed President of the six-year-old College at 39.

He joins a few others who had confidence in me at a young age.  I was probably the youngest senior student affairs officer in the country when he ultimately appointed me Vice President of the College.  Colby was a community college with about 1,000 students. It sits on 160 acres of ground near the interstate in south Colby with seven buildings. Three of them were my responsibility: two “Living Centers” commonly known as Residence Halls; and a Student Union that had the food service, bookstore, recreation/meeting facilities and a student health clinic. In addition, I was responsible for Financial Aid, Counseling, Discipline, Student Activities, Student Leadership, Student Health Center, Career Counseling and the like. Sorry to go off on this, but if you don’t know about student affairs, this gives you a sense of the opportunity he gave to a 21-year-old.  The budget was probably $1+ million—a lot of money in 1972—and a staff of ultimately 25.

You probably think Jim was a fool to entrust this kid with this responsibility, and you could be correct. What he knew was how to take rough stone and smooth it out. He had been a successful high school basketball coach, star Kansas State University basketball player, finished his doctorate at Wyoming, and had served as Dean of Instruction at Colby for several years before becoming President.  So you begin to see why he is so important to my development.

He was, as I have learned, a master of the leadership art of asking questions, and most of them were why or why not. I was never an athlete, so some aspects of teamwork were not in my DNA.  They probably still aren’t, but Jim made me an important part of a team. He invested in my professional development, and I was soon the darling of the Student Affairs profession in Kansas because I got involved and learned a lot.  He paid for me to go to national meetings and management seminars, and he counseled with me on subjects well beyond my expertise.

But most important, he stood behind me in times of trial.  The first rape in 16 years in Thomas County happened at the Women’s Living Center my first year. A drug bust at the Men’s Living Center just before graduation. A threat on my life by a student with a knife. Personnel management issues with counselor and community mental health professionals. Professionalism for the Student Union personnel and activities. The addition to the Student Union that doubled it in size and my refusal to use the building in any way for non-student union staff offices—it was the students’ building and they were paying for it.  I am not the easiest guy to manage.  But Jim did it and he did it in stride.  Or at least it looked that way.

OK, now you know the foundation of our relationship.  Jim and his wonderful wife, Sandy and their talented son, David stayed at Colby for many years and then took an opportunity to become President of Garden City Community College.  It was a bigger school and bigger town with more opportunity to serve.  I don’t know a lot about those years; we kept in touch, but as friends do.  I did attend his retirement celebration.  He recognized the 30 men and women who he had mentored in the crowd that had become college or university presidents. Then to my surprise, he said, “I have only one failure who I thought would be a college president: Bob Hartsook.”  Then he shared my business success and asked me to come up and join this distinguished crowd.  I get a tear just thinking about that day.

In his retirement, they moved to Wichita; David had passed away at a young age.  It was kind of home, I guess. But in retirement we began to communicate more.  These two have always loved to travel and love to drive, an attribute that we don’t share, but I live in interesting places so they came to my home in NC. We had a great time. I ultimately sank my fourth boat, but not before we had an adventure.  Every evening after school, Jim and my son, Austin would go down to the local school ground and shoot hoops.  Sandy and I would talk about her trips and their lives.

Well, in 2005, I sold the company to the employees and I was required to create a Board of Directors of three, including me. Merwyn Hayes, who has been my business mentor for nearly thirty years, joined the Board.  Then I thought about Jim and all that he had brought to me, and how now that he had some time what he could bring to my business.  That was it. Jim became the third board member and has been elected as Secretary of the Board by acclamation ever since, always a close vote.

We have been friends for a long time.  We are very close friends now, which it wonderful. Life is interesting.

So on Saturday, February 16 there is a surprise 80th birthday party for Jim in Wichita and I am going to be there.  I waited to tell you that until now because I didn’t want you to think this is a birthday tribute. It isn’t. It is a long overdue thanks to a great leader, a motivator, and now a close friend.

If I could be Jim Tangeman, this would be my birthday.

Happy Birthday, Jim!

Fundraiser of the Year

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.

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