What’s a Relationship?

“Fundraising is all about relationships.”

We hear that so often, the words tend to go in one ear and out the other.

You mean to say, fundraising isn’t about data? Analytics? Benchmarking? Crowdfunding? (I’m trying to think of the word or phrase of the moment here.)


Fundraising is all about relationships.

For the next few posts on The Weekday Blog, let’s take a look together.

We can start with a story of two deep, personal relationships one institution shared with an amazing couple.

Sam was co-chair of my very first capital campaign. It took a real leap of faith for him to sign on. I’m proud to say we met the goal, on time. The joy of philanthropy began to grow in Sam and his spouse, Sharon. We’d see each other often. Sharon would look at me as if to say, “I didn’t want you to put my husband in a failing proposition. You didn’t. Just the opposite. The whole experience has made him happy. That makes me happy, too.”

The campaign ended and I moved on from the university. I saw Sam and Sharon rarely after that.

Just recently, the school hosted an Alumni Business Council gathering. Sam was one of the guest panelists on the program. I signed up, mostly for the chance to see him and Sharon again.

Sure enough, in the reception before the program I ran into Sharon. We had a wonderful talk. Of course, I brought up the former president from that first campaign. Sharon didn’t refer to the president in the past tense.

She referred to him in the present tense.

“Oh, he’s family.” And she meant it. Family.

Forward to the program. During Sam’s remarks he referred to a list of people from the university (he’s an alumnus) who he considers to be mentors. I was able to anticipate many of the names, legends of the place, but I didn’t anticipate the last name he mentioned.

“And last but certainly not least, I consider Ray Stevens to be a mentor.”

Ray Stevens is the current vice president for development for the university.

This mega-donor, whose company grosses over $2 billion in sales per year, considers the chief development officer at his alma mater as one of his mentors. Sam and Ray have known each other for more than 20 years.

That, my friends, is a relationship.

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