Looking For What Matters

by Priscilla Bratcher

In addition to my client work with Armstrong McGuire, I’ve recently accepted a temporary part-time assignment with the Medical Foundation of North Carolina, the fundraising arm of UNC Health Care. One of my three assignments is to raise money for the construction of a new off-campus medical facility that will serve its community.

When I first read about the project, its short timeline, its passive past fundraising and its relative priority within a very large and complex institution with many fundraising needs, I felt a little worried about the potential for success. But then I learned that this campaign came with an enormous built-in advantage: a gem of a volunteer.

Over the last week I have made several major gift calls with this newly retired UNC physician whose former patients, residents, medical students and colleagues as well as his fellow churchgoers and many community friends mean that he is well-respected and well-connected in town.

Imagine my delight on our first call when I learned he is also a natural fundraiser. He tells our prospective donors that he doesn’t know anything about the money side and doesn’t really understand it, but he wants to talk about what this facility will mean for patients, their families and the community.

When he begins to tell the story, he displays the four most important qualities of the masterful fundraising volunteer. Many volunteers have some, but this special man has them all.

1. Credibility

He makes a call and gets an appointment right away. Unlike many of us who have a hard time getting through gatekeepers, he can get a meeting in very short order. He is highly respected and greatly beloved and donors want to listen to what he has to say.

2. Authority

Through his many years as a physician and leader he has earned the respect of this community. He has saved many lives intervening and acting quickly not only on behalf his own patients but those whose stories he encounters. No matter who asks, he never refuses to help. And after 50 years, his knowledge of medical issues is both sound and current (yes, at 83 he still keeps up with the literature, quoting an article from JAMA just today during a call.)

3. Passion

When he begins to tell the story of what the building of the facility will mean to him, he is nearly impossible to resist. He has been working on this aspect of patient care since the 1970s and he makes anyone who will listen understand that this building will be the fulfillment of all that work. He is compassionate and caring and his comments always relate back to the patients who will be helped.

4. Personal Commitment

Not only did he and his wife made a personal gift, but he asked that his UNC colleagues and former students honor him with gifts to the campaign to honor his retirement this year. He insists he wants nothing named for himself in the building: he just wants to see it completed. So far, they have responded with over $80,000 in gifts, often accompanied by notes of appreciation for the great teacher or colleague.

Don’t get me wrong. I have been in fundraising long enough to know how unusual this wonderful man is. But I urge you to look for as many as these qualities as you can find when selecting fundraising volunteers. Forget the titles and positions, go for those genuinely motivated, invested leaders who will open doors and to whom others will listen.

Oh, there’s one more thing. Add to those four critical qualities a love of life and a sense of humor, a laugh that sometimes barks with joy, and what do you have? The absolutely ideal volunteer. How lucky am I?

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