People Who Attend Church Regularly Are More Likely to Donate to Charities

I suppose this headline falls into the category of "No surprise here." But a recent study confirms what we already knew. Regular church goers give more than non-church goers.  Other interesting facts from this study include.

  • African Americans give the highest percentage of their donations to religious causes (74%), followed by Hispanics (66%), and then Caucasians (56%). 
  • Protestants give more to religious causes than Jews and Catholics.
  • Giving to Religious institutions is double that of donations to Educational enterprises. 

One finding that was particularly interesting, was the giving of millennials to religious causes is roughly equivalent to previous generations at the same age.

For the rest of the article click on the link.

The Right Person at the Right Time

There are so many factors that go into a successful solicitation that it would be wrong to say this or that is the most important. Multiple factors, including good luck, are a part of the solicitation process. But included on any list would be:

  • A Compelling Vision
  • Preparation
  • Clear and Articulate Ask 
  • Listening
  • Relationship

Recently I was reminded of another crucial component.

The right person needs to ask the right person at the right time.

A client was making preparations to solicit a Foundation for a large grant. One week before the ask, the Board Chair learned that a friend of his was on the Foundation Board. The Board Chair made a phone call and explained the need. The next week the Foundation granted the entire request.

The CEO of this Non-profit maintains a close relationship with the Director of the Foundation. The Non-profit has a compelling vision and a clear need. The grant was well prepared and the interview went well. And in this case, perhaps most importantly, the right person called the right person at the right time.

When time comes to make a solicitation, always ask two questions. "Who is the right person to make this request?" To ignore existing friendships and relationships is simply silly and shortsighted. Remember people not only give to a vision, they give to people--people they know and trust.

Second ask, "Is this the right time?" The donor may not be ready to give. A business set-back, a family illness, swamped at work, or maybe even they don't truly understand the need. Is it the right time to make this ask?

The larger the gift, the more important it is to ask these two questions.




Invest in Yourself

My younger co-workers had been after me for years to go with them to their favorite conference, Catalyst. I always had a good excuse, including being on vacation last year and significant commitments at other times. But I think they knew the real reason.

I didn't want to go.

Let me count the reasons:

  • The time away just puts me behind, like I am right now on this Friday night. Sunday is coming and this preacher is not ready.
  • The conference will not encourage me. It will simply remind me where I and my church are falling short.
  • I am not a conference guy. I am a read a book guy.
  • I am already gone from home more than I care to be.
  • All conferences are the same. All hype and no substance.

I am glad my co-workers wore me down. The conference was great! My wife went with me, and we were blessed indeed. Man it was good. I have not come home on fire, ready to change the world. The terrible traffic on the drive home beat the "walking on a cloud" feeling out of me. (BTW, the older you get, the more you gripe about traffic.)

But I did come home more determined to be a better minister and man.

Are you investing in yourself? What have you done to sharpen your skills in the past three months. One day retreat, online course, challenging read, special certification, conference, class at a community college, intentional learning from key lay leaders--the opportunities are endless.

If you do not invest in yourself, no one else will.

I am glad I went.



 What Have You Learned About Solicitation?

Recently I started a client meeting with this question. Honestly, I was mostly thinking warm-up before we got down to business. It turns out this was the best part of the meeting.

Those who answered were key volunteers, members of the development team, the CEO and other key employees who had accepted solicitation responsibilities for the upcoming capital campaign. These responses could be the subtitles in a chapter entitled, Fundraising 101.

·      You must connect people with the story

         I loved this one. Facts, figures, stats—they are all important. But at the heart of every      solicitation is a story. How does your donor connect to the story?

·      Don’t get in the way

        Make your case, make the ask, and stop talking. This respondent had learned that you can say too much.

·      The fear of anticipation is greater than the actual solicitation

         This response came from a key volunteer who was just getting his feet wet. He had run companies all his life and now he was asking people for major donations. He rose to the challenge.

·      You can see confidence grow the more you do it

         Nothing beats practice. Role play is helpful and should be utilized in training, but you aren’t going to grow until you actually venture out.

·      Setting up appointments is difficult

         This one was a surprise but should not have been. People are busy and not always inclined to accept a solicitation meeting. It takes persistence and hard work.

·      We assume Board members know what is going on

         It is impossible to over communicate. This particular Board had been told multiple times about upcoming solicitations, and yet some were still surprised.

·      It is hard to know how much to ask for

         Yes, it is. Sometimes you blow it and shoot too high and there is that awkward moment. You will survive it though

·      You can ask for too little

         What would you rather have—the awkward moment mentioned above or leaving money on the table because the ask was too timid?




The Best Thing We Have Done to Enhance Giving

Several months ago I polled church leaders about their giving at church. The question asked was,  “The best thing we have done to enhance giving at our place is.

Communicate clearly what the needs are (6)*

·      How giving impacts the community

·      Inform of short falls

·      Tell better stories

·      Present budget and needs

Utilize special contributions (5)

·      Budget based on 50 weeks, two Sundays of specials (2)

·      Special contributions (2)

·      Three or four special contributions a year

Preach early in the year on giving (3)

Use online giving opportunities (2)

Capital Campaign (2)

Kregg Hood material (2)

Spend money on compelling projects

Leadership is a key component

Clear vision with a defined need

No secrets. Complete transparency

Encourage people to grow one step each year toward a tithe

Financial Peace classes

A giving app

One take away for me from the survey is the importance of doing something. Your congregation and the individual families that comprise it will not automatically grow in generosity. You must lead. 

I know how it is as a church leader. Multiple needs come at you from every direction. Often you simply are striving to keep your head above water. Planning ahead to enact two or three of these action steps seems like more work.

Which of course it is--more work. But you cannot afford, literally, you cannot afford inaction. Do something.

* The numbers represent how many of the 20 or so respondents gave that particular answer.


More Thoughts on Online Giving

Online giving currently accounts for only 7-8% of all giving to non-profits, which begs the question, “Why bother?” The initial start-up costs are a pain, and the fees are sometimes exorbitant. So why start or encourage online giving, especially at church?

Your members increasingly want to give online. They don’t write checks for anything else, and they will wonder why they have to write checks to church. We have promoted our online giving option over the last year, and now one of every three dollars given at church is online. This is up from only 10% two years ago. Our members have found out how easy it is. They like it.

Online giving increases total giving. Last year, I started giving online exclusively. When December 1 rolled around I saw that I had given more to church by that date than any other year. I had less to “catch up” on than ever before. I make up my “deficit” every December. But not every person does that. A family at church bragged to me about how easy online giving was. They had previously been sporadic givers at best. Since we have promoted online giving, the total number of giving units has gone up quite significantly.

Think about the future. My mother has not made or will ever make a single online donation. Her older than he wants to admit son has started giving online almost exclusively. My college age son and philanthropy? He already makes a monthly online donation to Compassion International and doesn’t even have a checkbook. If we expect millennials to give, we really need to provide online options, including text giving.

People give more regularly. They set up the automatic withdrawal and forget about it. I am convinced the more people you have giving online, the fewer ups and downs you will have during the giving year. The summer slump will not be as dramatic. If someone gives you $12,000 in a given year, you will most likely receive it in 24 equal installments, not $9,000 through November and $3,000 in December. (Those who receive bonuses will still make additional gifts in December, however.)

In the next blog, I will offer a few tips about starting online giving at church.

Online Giving

For the first ten years of my working career, I was paid weekly—every Thursday. The bookkeeper at church hand wrote the paychecks, and we knew we could pick them up after 12:00 pm. (We were a bit afraid of the woman who wrote the checks. She once told the youth minister, “I believe I would back in here to get this check considering how little work you did this week.”)

I drove down the street to deposit the check, usually leaving out a little cash. Then on Sundays I wrote my contribution check for church. Some years we even had contribution envelopes so we could keep up with our giving. If you still had the July 21st envelope in the box, you knew you missed a week. In a year I probably wrote at least 50 checks just to church.

Last year I wrote less than 80 checks total during the entire year, down from 167 checks in 2013. This year it will be even less. My twice-monthly paychecks go directly into my account without me touching them, and I deposit miscellaneous checks into my checking account via my phone. The only time I get cash is when I go on vacation. I, like most of you, pay almost all of my monthly bills through automatic withdrawals from my checking account or on my Rewards Credit Card.

I even quit balancing my checkbook. I feel a little wild and crazy to admit this. But when you can see it all online seconds after the purchase, what’s the point? Oh, the bank made that mistake back in 1993. I will take those odds.

All of these changes are why your non-profit and church must enter the world of online donations. Your donors expect the ease and convenience that comes with digital transactions.

Last year I started giving online to our church. We have had the capability for 3-4 years, but I only used it occasionally. But now my contributions are drafted every other week. In three simple words—“I love it.” Honestly, I don’t know why I did not start sooner.

Online giving for churches and non-profits? It used to be a luxury—something you did for early adapters. But not anymore.

It is expected.

Practice Makes Perfect

Practice makes perfect. This cliché applies to so many parts of our lives. Changing a diaper, preparing a financial report, hitting a baseball, cooking an omelet, playing the piano. We become proficient and skilled in certain tasks, not necessarily because we have talent, but because we work at it.

I have always enjoyed speaking in public. Reciting a poem in the school assembly in the eighth grade was a fun challenge, as was preaching my first sermon as a teenager. But when did I really learn how to preach? The answer—the first year I served as a preaching minister. I went from speaking 25 times a year to 100 times. It was Monday morning, and two new sermons for next Sunday were staring me in the face. It was sink or swim time.

Prepare and deliver 100 new sermons in a year, and you have to get better. Or you move into another line of work. Ha!

I had not thought of this practice applying to generosity, but that is exactly what Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson propose in their new book, The Paradox of Generosity.

“One of the best ways of starting to become a truly generous person, if one really wants to, is simply to first start behaving like a generous person. Like many things in life, we usually learn best by doing; we perfect activities and attitudes by practicing them.”

Behaving like a generous person. What does that look like?

·      Giving money to the guy selling newspapers on the corner

·      Talking about practicing generosity in front of my children

·      Committing to give away all “surprise” money I receive this year

·      Volunteering at a soup kitchen and taking a friend with me

·      Buying lemonade from the kids down the street

·      Making anonymous gifts

·      Setting up an automatic payment to a favorite charity

·      Offering child-care to a young mother

·      Changing my default answer to yes, instead of no

We want to be generous, open-handed people—people who make a difference in the lives of others.

So, work at it. Practice makes perfect.



How Much Do You Ask For?

It may not be the age-old question, but it is a question that comes up in solicitation. How much do you ask for? If you ask for too much, you run the risk of offending the donor. If you ask for too little, you leave money on the table.

I have a decided bias on this question, but first, this reminder. There is no substitute for knowing your donor. How interested are they in your organization? Just because someone has the means does not mean they will share those means with you. Or even if they have been helpful to your organization, are they still engaged? The wealthy board member who gave a big gift five years ago may have left the last finance meeting in a huff. Make sure your take on their interest is up to date.

When it comes to the amount, you really must do your homework.

·      How much is your donor worth?

·      Has the donor recently sold a business?

·      Is a divorce about to upset the applecart?

·      Is a large inheritance coming into play?

·      Has your friend recently made a large donation to another charity?  

Do your best to answer these questions and several more.

So, now you have done your homework. The development team has gone back and forth between an ask of $50,000 or $100,000. You have fine-tuned your presentation to fit the donor and you are sitting across the desk. Your mouth is dry. You stumble through, as best you can, noticing the typo on the pledge card for the first time. The moment of truth has arrived.

What do you do?

One time I had a client in this exact situation. The organization was in a capital campaign and needed big gifts. The donor in question had been very involved in the organization but had slipped some in more recent years. There was some thought that she, the donor, was not enamored with the current project. The solicitor was afraid to make a big ask, but had mustered up the courage to request $50,000.

Before the solicitor had gotten to the request, the donor pledged $100,000 over three years.

I love clichés. Here is one that applies.

Go big or go home!

Do you believe in your organization and its mission? Do you really need this donation? Then don’t be afraid to make a bold request. Most people will be honored that you thought they could make such a gift.



The Power of Thanks

I have not gone through these blog posts and recorded how many times we have written about the importance of expressing thanks to your donors. I know it is a lot—probably more than I even realize. But just when I think perhaps I am beating a dead horse and should find another topic, I hear stories like the following.

A friend in ministry told me about a recent encounter. My friend went out of his way to thank a “big giver” at church. Well actually, he did not go out of his way. He simply stopped the guy at church one Sunday and thanked him. The encounter was not planned. It was simply a genuine, “we could not do it without you,” kind of interchange.

The next day the church member made an additional five-figure gift to church.

The next day!

The gift was not tied to a specific ask. In fact, the donor was not asked to do anything. There was no solicitation. Shoot, there was no expectation of any kind.

The donor was simply thanked. Genuinely thanked. And guess what? He is like you and me. He appreciated it.

So, I ask again, especially those of you working in a church setting. Are you thanking your people?

Tell Me A Story

We had an amazing testimony at church today! I mean it was good. Everybody was talking about it afterwards.

The miraculous was not involved—no one was saved from a crash with a speeding train or anything like that. In many respects, it was a pretty ordinary story—church member makes a friend at work, he expresses interest in spiritual matters, one thing leads to another, and the friend comes to the Lord.

But you see, we know the people involved. These are our people. We were there the day the friend was baptized on Sunday morning. This story is our story, and we are thrilled.

In fundraising, whether church or non-profit, never forget the power of a well-told story. To put it crassly, stories sell. To put it more accurately, stories remind your donors why they give.

People give to other people and people give to a vision, and nothing communicates vision like story.

Church members don’t give money to build a new cabin at camp, they give because they want to hear more sweet stories from camp, or they remember their own camp story as they make a pledge.

The missionary comes home on a fundraising tour and tells wonderful stories of lives changed, not buildings built.

The wealthy donor gives $1.0 million to the local children’s hospital because she was beautifully served by that hospital when a grandchild was near death. A name might be engraved on a wall, but the gift came because of a very personal story.

We all want to believe our donations make a difference. We know, of course, that part of our donation goes to fund the CEO’s salary and pay on a mortgage. Every organization has overhead. But we don’t give to overhead. We give because we want to do good.

How well are you “selling” your mission and vision?

How many stories are you telling?








Tools for Encouraging Gifts of Securities


With the recent strong returns in the Stock Market many of your donors are sitting on significant capital gains. A gift of an appreciated security makes perfect sense for both the donor and the charity. 

An email recently crossed my desk from the folks at Sharp Publications. They have several tools that you might find useful. Below is a brief article from them. 

Recent IRS reports have indicated that much of the post-recession recovery in giving has come in the form of appreciated securities donated by higher income individuals. According to the IRS, the average gift of appreciated securities is in the $55,000 to $65,000 range.

Sharpe offers several tools to help you show donors the benefits of making charitable gifts through appreciated securities and how to structure these gifts:

You can learn more by attending one of our Gift Planning Seminars, each of which includes practical guidelines for donors when giving securities. Our 2017 offerings are “An Introduction to Planned Giving,” “Structuring Blended Gifts,” and “Integrating Major and Planned Gifts.”

In addition, Give & Take often publishes articles about stock gifts, such as these:
Gifts of Securities: How to Motivate Donors to Make These Gifts
In the Market for Gifts of Stock
So, a Donor Wants to Make a Stock Gift . . . What Comes Next?

The most effective communications plan starts with identifying your target audience. Sharpe Group’s Donor Data Enhancement Services can help you plan the most cost-efficient mailing strategy by identifying donors, based on age and wealth, who are most likely to give appreciated securities.

Increasing Giving At Church

Our giving at church is up this year. Way up. I have not checked the percentage of increase because I am a little afraid that I might jinx things, and I am not going to check either. Just leave well enough alone is my motto.

The increase has taken us pleasantly by surprise. We intentionally did a few things in the final quarter of 2016, and it looks like our actions bore fruit. We did the following.

  • Conducted a month long series on giving in October.
  • Sent out contribution letters sooner than usual.
  • Publicly stressed the importance of giving and all the good things we do as a church.
  • Talked about the ease of online giving on more than one occasion.
  • Called several loyal church members and thanked them for their generosity.

In the sermons we shared a sobering statistic about how many members do not give. This one statement caused quite the buzz in the hallways. Other than that, however, we stayed positive in the preaching. 

Perhaps it was a package deal--all of the steps helped out. But I suspect it was the phone calls. Our 15 elders made five or so calls each. They thanked people for their generosity and let them know we as a church could not make up our budget deficit without their help. The calls were short, sincere, and to the point.

 Apparently they worked.

People like being needed.

People enjoy  being thanked.



I Pray For You

Just today I spoke with one of our clients. The CEO of this faith based non-profit told of a recent letter he had received from a donor—an elderly widow. This woman has faithfully given $5.00 a month to the organization for 20 years. In the letter that accompanied her monthly check, she apologized for not being able to give more. Then she said the following:

“I pray for you twice each day.”

The CEO wiped away tears as he told the story.

Our donors not only help us do great things. Sometimes, they humble us with their quiet commitment and dedication.

We would do well to never forget the story that Jesus tells about a widow.

He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

                                                                                                Mark 13:41-44

Make a short list of your most faithful and committed donors, regardless of amount. Who are the people who have given to your organization every month for years? Set aside an afternoon and make some thank you phone calls. You might just find out somebody is praying for you too.





The One Thing

On Thursday of this past week I had a wonderful time cleaning up some files from a client. Notes were scattered in three different files from over a three-year period, and I had been meaning to get to this for a long time since I was having trouble finding things quickly. Next I ticked off a couple of other housekeeping duties--items not even on my "to do" list. I was so productive. It was empowering.

Until Friday night.

That is when I picked up Gary Keller and Jay Papasan's book, The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results. The authors note that a lengthy "to do" list is often an excuse to not work on what is most important--the one thing you really ought to be doing.

I am so busted.

On Thursday there were two things that I needed to do. But I simply did not want to do them. They required creativity and discipline, neither of which I felt that morning. So I went for the easy thing. Granted, it was better than wasting time playing Words With Friends or daydreaming about my next vacation, but my industrious Thursday was simply a cover up. I stayed busy so I did not have to think about the two important tasks I was blowing off.

So I am repenting, at least for now. As I have begun my list for next week, I have asked myself an important question. What is the most important thing I need to do? It is funny. I knew the answer immediately.

What is your one thing?

Are you doing it?


I Am Right!

The call came on my cell-phone, an 800 number that I did not recognize. The foreign sounding voice on the other end announced that they needed to talk about some suspicious charges on my credit card.

I responded, “The credit card company does not call about suspicious charges.” I was loud and proud that I was not taken in by some phone scam. After I hung up, I continued to fume. “I should have said, “How can you sleep at night. Trying to steal from people.” My righteous indignation was in overdrive.

It just so happened that fifteen minutes later I needed to purchase something online. Surprisingly my credit card was rejected. I tried a second time, thinking I typed the number in wrong. Same result.


When I reached the credit card representative, she informed me that two charges on my card had been flagged as suspicious, and the card had been frozen. The charges were in fact fraudulent, and the card had to be cancelled. I sheepishly told her that someone had just tried to call me to ask about the charges, and I had hung up on them. She laughed and said the agent had indeed made note in the file that he had attempted to call, but alas the customer (me) had hung up.

I just knew I was right. I had read that in Consumer Reports or something. Hadn’t I?

Apparently not.

Just because you think you are right doesn’t make it so.



Do The Right Thing

Our child returns from the church youth event or the school field trip and what do we ask? We ask the same thing that we asked when they came home from the three-year-old birthday party.

Did you have fun?

I never asked questions like did you learn anything or did you do good or did you draw closer to the Lord? No, same question every time. Did you have fun?

We want to be thrilled or fulfilled or excited or satisfied. Even those who hold a missional model of church pander to felt needs more than we would admit. As we seek to promote the latest church project or get folks to sign on the dotted line, we often don't appeal to one's sense of obligation. We use language that is merely an adult version of "don't you want to have fun?"

So what about duty?

As a child, Deirdre Sullivan's parents took her and her siblings to funerals. "Always go to the funeral," her father would say. She heard him also saying: do the right thing, even when you don't feel like it; it might inconvenience you, but it could mean the world to someone else. This message came back to her after her father died and his funeral was held in the middle of the workweek. "The most human, powerful and humbling thing I've ever seen was a church at 3:00 on a Wednesday full of inconvenienced people who believe in going to a funeral," she said. (NPR, reported in The Christian Century.) 

Visiting the funeral home, picking up your neighbor's mail, giving a panhandler $5, cleaning out the fridge in the office, taking your turn in the church nursery--none of these tasks are fulfilling or fun. (Well throwing out expired milk is a little thrilling for some of us.) But when we stop doing these things, when we stop doing our duty, the world slowly falls apart.

Duty and obligation are good words.

What do you need to do today?


It Takes Longer Than You Think

I am currently reading The World Beyond Your Head by Matthew B. Crawford. It is the kind of book that makes me feel smart and dumb. Smart, because it is such a difficult book, and dumb, because I really do not understand much of what he is talking about.

This quote, however, I understood. 

We constantly underestimate how long it will take us to get things done, no matter how many times we have been surprised by this same fact in the past.

Can I get an Amen? You think you can knock out a task in an hour and are surprised when you look up 90 minutes later and there you are, still slaving away. Putting up the Christmas lights, driving downtown, getting out that report, any meeting ever convened--it always takes longer than you think it will. 

It is that way with raising money. Here are two examples.

On paper you ought to be able to conduct a capital campaign for a moderate size church in three months. But you can't. It just takes longer than that. If you rush the process, too many members get to Commitment Sunday and are not ready to pledge. They needed more time. We recommend four to five months for a Church campaign and this assumes the church has a clear vision for the use of the funds. Once we worked with a church for six months prior to the campaign, helping them come up with a clearly articulated vision.

The private or silent phase of a non-profit campaign takes a year. There is a part of me that still wonders why that is so. But I know it is true. A case study must be drafted and consensus built. The Board needs coaching. Training of staff and key volunteers is time consuming. Big gifts require significant cultivation and multiple visits. A major responsibility of the consultant is to keep everyone on task--keep the ball moving down the field. But it still takes time.

A well-run campaign is time well spent. But it will probably take longer than you think.


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+1.800.234.7777 |

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The Phone Call That Was Not Returned

The recent book, Ray and Joan by Lisa Napoli, is subtitled, The Man Who Made The McDonald's Fortune And The Woman Who Gave It All Away. Ray Kroc's third wife Joan outlived him by nine years, and she proved to be one of the greatest female philanthropists of all time. 

A few years before she died Joan became acquainted with PBS and NPR. Although she counted Fred Rogers as a personal friend, up to that point, Joan was not a particular fan or patron. But a random contact changed all of that.

Joan had previously funded the construction of a hospice in San Diego. A grateful resident of that hospice penned a thank you to Joan prior to his death. Mrs. Kroc called to check on the resident--a Mr. Bergsma--and learned he had died. She did talk to his wife who just happened to do fundraising for the local PBS station. Stephanie Bergsma became friends with Joan and eventually passed her name onto national representatives of both PBS and NPR. 

What happened next is astounding. Napoli writes, "The PBS contacts never returned the calls, nor did they return separate inquiries from Joan's advisors. NPR's Kevin Close, on the other hand, leaped at the chance to meet her." After he impressed Joan at a meeting, she wrote a check for $500,000--only the third time the network had ever received a gift of that size from an individual.

Joan died of cancer in 2003 at the age of 75. After giving away millions during her lifetime to a variety of causes, gifts from her estate added up to an additional $2.7 billion. The largest gift was $1.5 billion to the Salvation Army. The second largest gift? $225 million to NPR. (The gift grew to $236 million before the funds were transferred.) 

Today when you hear the line on your NPR station, "a gift from the estate of Joan B. Kroc,"  they are referencing that gift from 13 years ago. There is a lesson there as well. Say thank you.

The local PBS affiliate received $5.0 million at Joan's death. The national organization received nothing. 

I am sure there is a logical explanation for why the national headquarters of PBS did not return the phone calls from representatives of the wealthiest woman in the United States, but I am having trouble imagining that scenario. 

$225 million vs. $0.

Sometimes in fundraising you simply get lucky. You just happen to make the right contact at the right time. Other times you make your own luck by working hard.

And then sometimes you simply return phone calls.