It is wonderful when your volunteers, colleagues and leaders offer to help throughout a campaign, an event or a special initiative. They often offer valuable insights that you would not have thought about on your own. They can change the course of the project for the better, which is just great.
Over the years, some of the comments and suggestions I received are memorable in the surprise that they produced.
There have been so many startling comments that this particular post is broken into two parts––yes, Part Two will be forthcoming. We all can learn something from these examples. These are some of the things that people have shockingly told me over the years––they were all very well intended, but...
When a physician had a piece of equipment that he wanted to purchase, he approached me, asked for my help, and let me know that it would cost $1,000,000. He swore it was a shared resource for the hospital, but it surely didn't appear to be. He found nothing at all wrong with this advice: Just go out and get 100 other physicians to each give you $10,000 and we're done!
When the director of a major center wanted to secure a $2,000,000 gift for an endowed chair for her own enterprise, I was working with her department. As we considered various strategies for raising the money, she pushed back her chair and ended the meeting with this advice: Just go to Mr. Brown (the wealthiest person in the city) and he will give you the money. He knows me, I met him at an event about eight years ago.
Our development office was short staffed and throughout the year, with limited time, we successfully focused on major and transformational gifts, a gala, multiple community events, other events that raised significant funds and stewarded special donor groups, conducted tours of the institution, and conducted a very active honor/memorial program. That year we raised record levels of funds. At a key meeting, following discussions on how these funds contributed significantly to the research program, the director said: This is all great and I don't like to criticize, but where are the $500 and $1,000 donors?
I was a board member when a small organization in the city did not really have a development office but found that they needed to raise $150,000 for a special project. A key and influential board member declared to the other members: Special events are the best way to raise money. We should have the money in no time if we all really work at it. Why, just last year Mrs. Jones, our wonderful volunteer, raised $7,000 just by organizing a fish dinner.
When a director of a major medical discipline was fully set on launching and leading a campaign, his own gift was now being solicited and was expected to be the first to lead the way. I was responsible for the solicitation and had prepared for this moment, but was surprised at this response: Oh, no, I won't be giving any money. My time is the valuable part and I give blood, sweat and tears every day here, just ask my assistant and my wife. (Of course, that didn't fly. Ultimately he became a very generous donor, leading the way several times over his tenure.)
Hot Tip: If you don't find the problem with any of these examples, please contact me immediately. I can help you understand. Alternatively, perhaps you have even more shocking comments that you would like to share!