I just read a news update, N.Y. College Receives $85-Million Gift, at the Chronicle of Philanthropy.  A donor generously bequethed his 60-acre estate and a $10-million cash gift to Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York.  The donor’s name?  Mr. Rich.  No joke.

There are important fundraising points, exemplified in this story.

  1. Philanthropy generally involves a moral agenda.  People have a certain view of the “good life” or of what the world “ought” to be.  In their philanthropic decision making, donors often try to bring this vision to fruition.  Mr. Rich was a successful business man who believed that executive leaders were only as strong as their interpersonal skills and only as effective as they were humble.  His bequest will help students learn this particular model of business leadership.
  2. Donor cultivation takes time.  To effectively solicit gifts, relationships must be built and trust must be earned.  Mr. Rich’s name was added to the mailing list in 1986, but he did not become interested in the school until the 1990’s.  Discussions about a bequest began in 2000.  The article did not identify when the committment was made, but the gift was not provided until Mr. Rich’s passing in June 2009.
  3. Major gifts to institutions of higher education do not always come from alumni.  Yes, colleges and universities have a “built-in” constituency of former students, but they have other supporters, too.  Mr. Rich was a neighbor to Marist College.
  4. Bequests matter.  They account for 7% of the total national charitable giving.  In 2008, this equated to $22.66-billion (Giving USA).  Mr. Rich’s bequest, valued at $85 million, far exceeds the $2.5-million given during his lifetime.

Are there other lessons learned?  Please leave a comment!