The Fundraiser's Measuring Stick

The Fundraiser's Measuring Stick

Jerold Panas

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The Fundraiser's Measuring Stick
Sizing Up the Attributes Board Members, Volunteers and Staff Must Cultivate to Secure Major Gifts

By Jerold Panas

Highly effective fundraisers share striking similarities – in their attitude, in the way they approach their work, and in the strategies they use to inspire and motivate donors to give stretch gifts.

Jerold Panas, in his decades of consulting work, has observed thousands of these great fundraisers up close – staff, board members, and volunteers.

To put you on the fast track to becoming an even better fundraiser than you are, Panas examines each of these key attributes in The Fundraiser’s Measuring Stick, and along the way supplies countless examples of how you yourself can cultivate these qualities and put them into practice.

It may surprise you that some of the most successful fundraisers NEVER ask for a gift, and yet the money flows in. Equally surprising is the fact that those who are the most afraid of asking often become the best solicitors. And it’s strange, too, to learn that following the conventional practices of fundraising will often prevent you from securing a gift.

As with any Jerold Panas book, here are plenty of “can-do” examples, inspiring stories of real-life fundraisers, and a bevy of field-tested approaches for raising major gifts.

Language students know that the quickest and most efficient way to learn another tongue is to plop yourself in a foreign country. Panas does the same thing for you in The Fundraiser’s Measuring Stick. If you want to know what really works in fundraising, let Panas immerse you totally in that fascinating, and intriguing world.

About the Author

The late Jerold Panas was among a small handful of the grandmasters of American fundraisers. He was considered one of the top writers in the field and a number of his books have achieved classic status. Hailed by Newsweek as "the Robert Schuller of fundraising," Jerry was a favorite speaker at conferences and workshops throughout the nation. He served as executive director of one of the premier firms in America and was the co-founder of the Institute for Charitable Giving. The very term "philanthropy" would mean less without Jerry's influence. His book, Asking, is the bestselling fundraising book of all time. Others such as The Fundraising Habits of Supremely Successful Boards, Making a Case Your Donors Will Love, and Born to Raise are classics and standards for the profession.

Table of Contents

1.            The Great Ones

2.            A Love Affair 

3.            Resolve Melts Constraints

4.            NOW!

5.            Selling the Dream

6.            The Itch to Win

7.            The Magic of Courage

8.            Outsized Optimism

9.            A Flair for Leadership

10.         Wondrous Possibilities

11.         Action Above All

12.         Doing Whatever It Takes

13.         Ignited with Energy

14.         Unfailing Memory

15.         Steadfast Commitment

16.         High Touch, Low Tech

17.         First Taste of Victory

18.         Soaring Spiritual Values

19.         Agape

20.         Breaking the Rules

21.         Give and Feel the Glow

22.         The Itch for Action

23.         Win-Win-Win

24.         Luck Follows Tenacity

25.         The Perils of Mediocrity

26.         The Devil’s in the Details

27.         Amazing What You Don’t Get

28.         Listen the Gift

29.         It’s Everything


This article is excerpted from The Fundraiser's Measuring Stick, by Jerold Panas, ©Emerson & Church, Publishers. To obtain reprint permission, call 508-359-0019 or email us.

The Great Ones

I’ve never really kept track.

In my years of consulting, I suppose I’ve worked with thirty thousand fundraisers, both volunteer and professional. Perhaps as many as fifty thousand.

They come in all sizes and shapes and ethnic backgrounds. Tall, short. Heavy, thin. I’ve seen it all.

I want to describe for you two I’ve worked with who are utterly different in style and approach. Each was powerfully effective.

When Golda Meir was prime minister of Israel, she sent a young fundraiser to the United States to raise money for Israel and Jewish causes. His name was Aryeh Nesher.

For two decades, Nesher raised funds and trained hundreds of leaders of Jewish Federations in the art of raising money. His art. His method. In Jewish circles, the name Aryeh Nesher is legendary.

Nesher’s type of fundraising was rough and tumble, in your face, laced with unforgiving guilt. When someone said, “I’ll need time to think it over,” his response would strip bark from a tree. I came to know him when he was a volunteer no longer on Israel’s payroll.

I was once with a wealthy Jewish leader who said, “Nesher was the only guy I ever threw out of my office. But first, he got the gift.”

Now let me describe a total opposite.

Dr. Vartan Gregorian is now president of the Carnegie Corporation. When I first met him, he was president of the New York Public Library. When Vartan assumed the helm of the library, it was moribund. To save money, the storied institution was closed two days a week and in the evenings.

“What Vart did,” the chairman of the library board told me, “was comparable to turning the Queen Mary around in a bathtub.”

One day I’m sitting with Vartan in his office. We’re talking about the extraordinary success he’s had in securing funds. He raised hundreds of millions of dollars in a very short time.

I tell him he saved the library and that everyone talks about his amazing prowess in raising money. “The truth is,” Vartan says, “I never ask for money. I can’t remember that I’ve ever asked for a gift.”

I’m incredulous.

“I simply talk with people,” he continues. “I tell them what we have is an extraordinary cathedral of scholarship and culture. It’s unequaled anywhere in the world. Filled with treasures and one-of-a-kinds.

“I create the dream and the inspiration. When I finish, I never have to ask. They offer me money. ‘How much would you like?’ they ask.”

Here’s proof that Vartan isn’t kidding.  

We go from his office to lunch at his favorite Armenian restaurant. We’re sitting by a window looking out on Third Avenue.

A woman walking down the street peers in and spots him.  She comes rushing inside.  

“Dr. Gregorian, I haven’t seen you for ages,” she says, excusing herself for interrupting. “Please come see me. I want to give you some money.” They hug.  She leaves.

“See what I mean?” he says to me.

The great fundraisers I’ve met all share certain qualities. That includes Nesher and Gregorian, who are poles apart in their styles and approaches.  

In the following pages, I’m going to share with you the roster of attributes, talents, and skills that allow the great fundraisers, volunteer or staff, to stand head and shoulders over all the others.