Holidays give me time to ponder. I’m sure some of the Hartsook staff wish I wouldn’t think so much because I have a reputation of making more work for everyone. But this Thanksgiving, I didn’t think of more we needed to do to grow philanthropy. Instead, I was in a very reflective frame of mind. I thought of three who are not merely making a difference in growing philanthropy, but who have reached “legend” status.
You know Hartsook Institutes gives the Growing Philanthropy Award to individuals and institutions that demonstrate fundraising success through innovation and creativity. You have read their names, you have seen the announcements, and some of you have even been present when we gave the awards.
Just for a moment, I invite you to look at the back story of three of the legends who received the awards with lessons that can help us emulate them and grow philanthropy.
Most recently, Roger Lowe, retired Senior Vice President of Wichita State University, received the award. Some of you may have thought, “CFO’s are usually pains in the neck to fundraisers, dismissing estate designations, discounting pledge values, and wanting only unrestricted money and money they can ‘book.’” Right?
Well, Roger is different. He does not impede the fundraiser; rather, he tries to remove obstacles so money can be raised. Imagine! Let’s say you have a restricted gift to do a project, but not quite enough. Roger searches for ways to legitimately use other funds to help reach the goal. Or what if your CEO wants you to raise money for a project that isn’t very flashy. Roger jumps in, looking at alternatives. To him, where the money comes from isn’t as important as getting the project done. Roger is a rare breed of CFO. He is a rare problem solver and a good fundraisers greatest ally.
Next, Harvesters, Kansas City’s Food Bank’s Karen Haren and Joanna Sebelien took an idea of creating broadly restricted targets – Initiatives – of Child Hunger, Family Feeding, Nutrition, and Senior Feeding to present their case. Instead of whining about hunger, they demonstrated how they were going to solve a problem. It was not a public relations stunt when they brought their CFO (another good CFO model) to the same table and worked on an Initiative Budget for the entire organization. They presented the cost of each program from a comprehensive point of view.
As a result, they have grown annual fundraising from $2 million a year to $14 million in six years. Their own national organization gave them an award for this, then didn’t follow their example. While they’re having a big year in fundraising, they are laying off people because they didn’t do the budget relieving part of the strategy. They didn’t understand that it’s not a gimmick. It’s real, dedicated organizational change.
Finally, our own Chair in Fundraising, at Indiana University, and his colleague, Jen Shang gave us the research on bequest pledging. Among the findings is a simple, transformative idea that everyone can make a bequest just as they can an annual fund gift. This 2008 research is slowing catching on. We have three bequest pledging organizations in which the numbers are fantastic all over. In less than 10 months, Tulsa Boys Home asked each of their 44 board members to give through a bequest. Only one turned them down and they have nearly $5 million committed in six months.
As a national organization, The Heritage Foundation has the challenge of communicating with their donors through direct response and then following up. Asking for bequests, they have closed 221 bequests this year valued at over $20 million, almost three times the average of previous years.
Finally, the Humane Society of Greater Kansas City is in a campaign but has discovered the inclination of their membership to give has raised $5 million in bequests just from their Board of twelve. In the Sargeant/Shang research you’ll learn that an agency is 17 times more likely to get an estate gift if they ask.
At Wichita State University, thirty million dollars was raised from 276 donors as a result of the Bequest Giving Strategy; over $75 million in fundraising growth because an organization was thinking from the donor’s point of view and established a partnership with the CFO instead of focusing on the competition. This innovation changed the direction of a university.
Some may dismiss this as just another series of random stories and situations. No, each of these was as a result of a strategy to grow philanthropy in America and in the world.
What is different here is that we observed, watched and recognized with the Growing Philanthropy Award, that each model of behavior can change fundraising in the world.
This past holiday, that’s what I thought about. It was a great a Thanksgiving.