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.

Filed under: Fundraising ProfessionalsMajor Gifts

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