Major Gifts Ramp-Up Architect
JIMMY LAROSE IS A TOWERING CHAMPION AND INNOVATOR FOR CHARITY AND THE NONPROFIT SECTOR - BY HALL POWELL
Jimmy’s work as an entrepreneur, author, fundraiser and speaker and has raised hundreds of millions of dollars around the world for people in need. His book RE-IMAGINING PHILANTHROPY is one of the top-ten best-selling books on philanthropy of all time.
It was at what I thought was going to be the time of my retirement, that I met Jimmy LaRose. I had just retired from Memorial Health University Medical Center Foundation, and had been invited to associate with a major fundraising consulting firm to selectively serve clients to “keep me busy.” I was living in Wilmington, North Carolina and was active in our local Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) chapter which I had helped to establish years earlier. Two of my fundraising professional friends who were also chapter members invited me one day in 2008 to go with them to attend a two-day seminar about major gifts fundraising which was being held in Greenville, North Carolina. In addition to it being more than a two-hour drive from my home, plus an overnight stay, I didn’t need another “Seminar 1.0” in major gifts fundraising! Throughout my twenty-five years (at that time) of being a fundraising professional, I had not only conducted many multi-million-dollar major gifts campaigns as a development officer and consultant, I had also taught major gifts fundraising, including capital campaigns, for AFP, the Association of Healthcare Professionals (AHP), and Duke University Nonprofit Institute. Why waste the time? In deference to my friends, I agreed to go to the seminar, but only for the first day.
When the seminar began, I was very doubtful that I was going to stay past the lunch break. The presenter, Jimmy LaRose was passionate and animated in presenting what he called Major Gifts Ramp-Up. I wasn’t sure what I was witnessing. However, the more I listened to how Jimmy presented the model of fundraising he was promoting I began seeing underlying principles that I had always ascribed to as the basis of his fundraising model: (1) earning the right to make the ask of a major donor prospect, (2) implementing a plan of cultivating and preparing a donor prospect for a major gift ask, and (3) stewarding the donor relationship so as to create long-term, sustainable major gifts. I not only stayed after the lunch break, I stayed overnight and attended the second day’s presentation.
By the end of the seminar, I began looking into the possibility of becoming a Major Gifts Ramp Up counselor, joining Development Systems International (DSI) team of counselors as a post-retirement career. For the past 14 years, I have been blessed to help advance the Major Gifts Ramp-Up model, and utilize its uniqueness to help many nonprofits achieve their financial and institutional goals.
Initially, I was not sure that Jimmy LaRose was “for real,” someone who really wanted to help transform the way nonprofits would address major gifts fundraising. Jimmy was convinced that many of the ways nonprofits went about fundraising, and the way some fundraising consults advised their clients, were antiquated. I was beginning to see the need for some changes myself. In Major Gifts Ramp-Up Conferences, Jimmy would often refer to “RE-IMAGINING PHILANTHROPY” which ultimately resulted in his writing a book of the same name. The book was initially controversial because it took issue with many of the “norms” of the nonprofit sector, such as, how to organize a nonprofit board of directors, does a nonprofit organization really need to do a feasibility study to determine whether or not to launch a major gift fundraising campaign? While I myself felt that some of his convictions were extreme, I began to understand that within the heart of his convictions and years of observations were some nuggets of reality that needed to be studied and discussed.
I began my nonprofit fundraising career like many people. I backed into it by helping a good friend run for U.S. Congress for the State of North Carolina. I was asked to raise the money to finance the campaign. I suppose I was singled out for the task because I had been successful in the medical supply industry. After the election I stayed in the nonprofit sector by joining what was, at that time, the oldest and largest fundraising consulting firm, Ketchum, Incorporated, headquartered in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. With Ketchum I learned how to organize capital campaigns for the larger nonprofits such as colleges and universities, hospitals, YMCAs, museums, and many others. Our methodology was for the most part “cookie cuttered” and replicated by other fundraising consulting firms of that day and time. We always did feasibility studies to determine readiness for a campaign and the probability for success. We often served as ad hoc staff members for a client because they didn’t have staff with fundraising expertise. Compare that with today’s larger nonprofits, and even smaller organizations, who know that to be successful in fundraising, they need professional staff to establish and implement basic fundraising strategies, with the occasional need to bring in outside consultants who have expertise in raising larger sums of money for special projects or programs.
From my entrance into nonprofit fundraising in 1984 to 2008 when I met Jimmy LaRose, much had changed in how nonprofits were operating and the need for philanthropic funding. One of Jimmy’s favorite and accurate observations is, “money is oxygen” for a nonprofit organization that is dependent on philanthropy for success. Money is the life-blood. He goes on, “Without it, the organization will flounder or totally fail, and therefore, the primary ‘customer’ for the nonprofit is the donor, not the recipient of the nonprofit’s services. Because, without money, nobody is going to be helped.”
To “reimagine philanthropy,” Jimmy LaRose knew it would take a movement peopled by nonprofit professionals who understood the need for change in the nonprofit sector: change in how money is raised and stewarded, and change in how nonprofit organizations are operated. Jimmy’s vision resulted in his working with philanthropists, foundations, scholars, lawyers, nonprofit sector professionals, and many others to form what is now NANOE, National Organization of Nonprofit Organizations & Executives. There is new forum enabling nonprofit professionals to study new standards, new guidelines for nonprofits, and to dialogue with others who share same values and goals.
I encourage to join Jimmy at one of his many events. He will be your good friend.
National Development Institute