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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).

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.

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.

[This is second in my series about one of our client’s success stories].

Leadership for America is the Heritage Foundation’s ten-year campaign theme.   Heritage is the most prominent conservative think tank in the country, and is based in Washington, DC, just blocks from the nation’s Capitol.  Heritage was selected by the authors of Forces For Good, a 2007 best selling book on the six common practices of the top 12 high impact nonprofits.  In addition to the Heritage Foundation, among those chosen were Feeding America (also a former client of Hartsook); the Environmental Defense Fund; Exploratorium (San Francisco’s Science Museum); National Council of La Raza; Teach for America; and others.

So in 2007, when Heritage was named a top institution, why would they hire a company like Hartsook?  The answer to that is that they are constantly seeking to improve and frankly, wanted to enhance their major gift fundraising. Over the past 6 years, Heritage has raised over $544 million and last year completed the year with a record, $115 million including cash, pledges and estate commitments.  This is up from $47 million in 2006.

You are going to see some themes repeating themselves as we discuss these successes.  If you have not read Forces For Good, read it.  It is probably the most important nonprofit management book written to date. By the way, the authors, Leslie Crutchfield and Heather McLeod Grant, have just updated the book and reported on the success of each of the nonprofits. Heritage was one of just a few that had continued to grow and in fact had more than doubled in size.

Here are six of the reasons Heritage is successful.

1.    The mission is well understood, appreciated, valued and respected by all who work there.  In fact, the mission is repeated in the elevators for all to see.  Each day, a listing of activities that are taking place in the building is posted.  Activities might include a briefing for a foreign ambassador, collaboration with other similar organizations, entertaining congressmen, senators and yes, once in a while a president or vice president.

2.    There is very little development staff turnover. Two people have held the Vice President for Development position since I have been with Heritage and the current one was promoted from within. They are unique in having a former Vice President for Development who has been promoted to Vice President and Senior Counsel, preserving an institutional history and long-term relationship so often missing from organizations. By the way, in the research side of the organization of over 275 staff, half are policy-related.

3.    This is going to surprise you, but the third reason for their success has been an incredible balancing of my passion for professionalism. Their major gift staff of 15 or so (overall staff of 50) did not come from a professional fundraising background.  But this is what Heritage does so well: they spend money on training and education. Part of my relationship is to mentor many of the regional fundraising staff and leadership. They are also exposed to the Bill Sturtevants, Robert Sharps and others, but they do it from a Heritage perspective and a Heritage fundraising context. So part of their strength is that they build their own. While they lack some of the philanthropy foundation, they also don’t have to deal with the overly technique-driven fundraising professional education.  This makes them markedly more innovative, creative and strategic.

4.    They have developed a “three legged stool” of direct response (which isn’t my strength, so I do little consulting on this), major gifts, and estate gifts. Interestingly enough, much of their growth in gifts has occurred by thinking bigger, giving donors pledge opportunities, and aggressively going after designations in their members’ estates (their donor’s average age is 70+ years).

Last year $74 million was raised in cash (about 55% direct response and 45% major gifts); $30 million in estate gifts and designations ($6 million in realized estate gifts and $24 million in designations and quantifications); and $11 million in pledges totaling $115 million. They have a goal of having up to 30% of each next year’s major gift cash goal already pledged and growing their realized estate giving and designations to 40% of their fundraising. In addition, their fundraising team raised $6 million in cash gifts for Heritage Action for America (Heritage Foundation’s affiliated sister organization which lobbies for the conservative policy ideas Heritage comes up with).

5.    No client is more engaged in helping their consultant understand what they are doing from a policy and marketing perspective.  Of course, I have not been retained to give opinions or direction, but understanding the process, direction and plans is extremely helpful in being “smart” about fundraising opportunities.

6.    The fundraising staff is engaged in researching the donor’s capacity, interest, and likelihood, and they think from the donor’s perspective.  Five years ago, their major gift team was tasked with $10,000, $20,000 and maybe a $50,000 gift.  Today, they regularly bring in $100,000, $500,000 and even million and multi-million dollar gifts.

So the themes continue. As Heritage demonstrates, fundraising success is a combination of leadership’s commitment, education and training of staff, valuing the individual, and high aspirations.

Let’s Focus on Success

My new resolve for 2013 is to celebrate the success of my/our clients.  As you know, I have a lot of opinions about the challenges that face nonprofits, the fundraising profession and philanthropy.  For me, there isn’t a better way to do this than to celebrate success.  It’s inspiring and it gets my point across.  So you may get weary hearing about some of our clients as I not only highlight their success, but point out why they are successful.

The Foundation for Shawnee Mission Medical Center, Shawnee, Kansas (a suburb of Kansas City) is one of the great community hospitals in the area and I suspect nationally.  They are a part of the Adventist Health System of Orlando, one of America’s largest and most successful systems.

Unofficially, they have completed their $30 million Capital, Program and Endowment Campaign. They have been a part of building a new, iconic tower for a new Emergency Department, ICU, and Surgery ($45 million total cost); a soon to be dedicated Women’s and Birthing Center ($38 million total cost); several program areas, and an endowment.

So how did they do it?

1.    Continuity of staff.  In the several years preparing for and implementing the campaign, only one staff of the five has left and was replaced. Having the wrong staff can kill a campaign, but they have the right staff and strong CEO, Lou Gehring, who was KC Fundraiser of the Year a few years ago.

By the way the staff all have fundraising responsibilities.  I just noticed a similar institution recently announced similar goals; they have 11 staff and eight of them are administration and only three fundraisers.  Something is wrong there.

2.    Sponsoring Institutional Support.  First, the Hospital funds the Foundation (about $600,000) so this foundation doesn’t have to raise it operational money.  As a result, they focus on building relationships through several small gift programs and major and estate gifts.  They have had two CEO’s who have supported this approach. They get an 88% return on their investment. This is huge.

3.    Major Gift Strategy. Strategic, measured and thoughtful approaches are a recurring theme.  They have raised over $3 million in challenge gifts from the Mabee Foundation (Tulsa, OK) and the Kresge Foundation (Troy, MI).  Those challenge gifts have been key to raising at least $20 million of their goals.  They consistently get the highest levels of support because of the strategy.

4.    Donor Engagement and Recognition.  Donor recognition isn’t just a platitude thrown about.  It is a mission. Their recognition of donors is frequently unique, individually-inspired pieces of art commissioned for this purpose.  They spend time celebrating the success of their hospital personnel with the Whole Heart Award, given by the foundation as the result of a patient recommendation.  Over 200 have been given away in the past 12 months. Their dedications are special and unique, with the donor’s interest in mind. Few organizations understand and implement recognition and donor engagement better than SMMC.

And finally—though I could go on and on about this organization’s campaign—I just felt this article needed to end . . .

5.    Donor-Centered Giving.  Yes, they actually view giving from the donor’s perspective!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wait, Bob.  You call this special?  You think this is unique?  Don’t you know all fundraising professionals do view giving from a donor’s perspective?

With all due respect, we don’t. If I asked this question, “If a donor gives a pledge of $100,000 over a five year period, how much do they give a year?” ninety-nine percent of all fundraising professionals would answer, “$20,000.”

That answer is wrong. The donor can give whatever they want or need to in a pledge.  It is their money. This is more than a technique, it is a philosophy of philanthropy.  Later I will write about one of many donors who gave a million dollars because SMMC had this attitude while many other institutions this person had served over the years didn’t.

This year, let’s resolve to take a good look at what’s been going well, while we question and examine the status quo.  Celebrate with me SMMC and their efforts to grow philanthropy.

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