Fundraising = Generous: A Tribute to Generous Donors and Their Helpers (You!)

donors fundraiser fundraising generous giving Jan 04, 2022

Last month, one of my favorite donors of all time died. Which made me reflect on the magic of really great relationships between donors and their beloved causes, and the tremendous role we fundraisers get to play in making pretty remarkable things happen.

Scott Ritchie was a boisterous, funny, affectionate, determined, successful and very generous man. He loved his family, his work, and his alma mater (which we shared and where I was lucky enough to work).

One of the great honors of my fundraising career was working with this man to make his dream come true. And it was very definitely his dream.

The Earth, Energy & Environment Center – two gorgeous buildings full of labs and study spaces and giant halls for gathering and inspiration – stands at the University of Kansas today because Scott Ritchie challenged a brand-new dean (the fantastic Danny Anderson, now President of Trinity University) and me to make it happen.

Mind you, Scott didn’t make the first gift. He doggedly, kindly, generously prodded.

Scott got Danny and me so committed that we braved another dean’s ire, sketched an ambitious and transformative vision, and drummed up support on campus. Danny appointed Scott’s favorite distinguished professor of geology and long-time department chair as associate dean, and Bob Goldstein and I hit the road, eventually raising close to $40 million, which was matched by the university to make the project a reality.

The Ritchies did, of course, give a transformative gift and the north hall is very appropriately named for them. I’ve never been so glad we made it happen than when I heard of his passing – I am so grateful that this memorial stands.

AND. None of this would have happened without the fundraisers. Without Danny and Bob, without other donors who championed the project as ardently as Scott, without me to design and steer and persist, Scott’s dream couldn’t have come true.

So fundraisers, as you appreciate your very best donors – and I hope you will take time to reflect on all those incredibly special people who make the world a better place every single day – please appreciate your own role, too.

The questions you ask, the way you listen, your persistence when people get busy or distracted, your courage in asking for the huge transformative gifts – it all matters so much.

Some days, it’s hard to feel noble about your job. It’s hard not to feel like a pest at best or a stalker at worst. Hard not to feel like (even really generous) people are avoiding your calls. So, please remember…


You make your donors feel heard and seen, you shepherd their dreams into reality. There are few greater gifts to give.


Your work is generous on the deepest level. Your role is quiet, often all but invisible. You labor on others’ behalf – your donors’ as well as those who will benefit from their gifts.

So next time you dread a cold call or break out in a sweat before asking – next time you feel awkward in a first meeting or disappointed when someone says, “no” – remember that this work is the best kind.

Every day, you play a critical role in making our world a better place. You do!

Give yourself a hug, or a big pat on the back today. Give your colleagues a giant high-five. CELEBRATE your generous ability to make other generous people’s dreams actually come true.

Scott, I am sending you a giant cosmic thank you for all you did to help me stretch and grow and succeed. You were generosity personified.