Hopefully, every single one of you reading this post has multiple deep-rooted passions you are able to pursue and enjoy in your lifetime. Occasionally, it’s possible to combine those passions into a single endeavor.
Recently, two totally disparate passions from my life came together: the great Hoosier tradition of basketball and my love for the nonprofit world.
How did this happen?
Enter Ron Newlin, an experienced nonprofit fundraiser, who just happens to also be the newest addition to our customer support team at Bloomerang.
(He is the dapper gentleman with the striped shirt in this photo.)
I am usually the final interview for all of the additions to our staff we have each month. It was no different with Ron. His nonprofit fundraising experience was outstanding!
We were literally in the first few minutes of our hour-long interview when I inquired about life changing events for Ron one of my favorite character related questions).
With barely a blink of an eye, he outlined his first and one of his most successful grass roots fundraising campaigns. Lo and behold, this campaign was to create and build the Indiana High School Basketball Hall of Fame.
I love the hall and what it stands for in our basketball crazy state.
Literally, for the next 12 minutes, Ron mesmerized with the story of this unlikely fundraising campaign with no pre-existing donors!
Here is the amazing story in Ron’s own words:
My first real experience with nonprofits and fundraising started in 1987 when I became Executive Director of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame. The opportunity to build a museum in New Castle from the ground up was exciting, but the challenge of learning how to raise the money to do it was probably more valuable to me.
The first thing the Hall of Fame did was send me to The Fund-Raising School – the program that is now known as “Principles and Techniques of Fund-Raising” at IU’s Center for Philanthropy. Back then Henry Rosso, Gene Tempel, and Dan Nicoson were the faculty. It’s still largely the same curriculum, and it’s still the best one-week continuing education experience I’ve ever had.
The $1.5 million campaign that the Hall of Fame implemented in 1988-89 broke many of the rules that I learned there. Of course, if you’re going to be unconventional, it’s at least good to know THAT, and WHY, you’re doing something different.
Yes, we got a couple of six-figure gifts, and a handful of five-figure ones. But the great majority of our funding came in gifts of $500, $100, and even smaller. The campaign plan matched the strengths of our board and the inclinations of our target audience.
We commissioned our architects to design a courtyard around a giant map of the state of Indiana, comprised of thousands of engraved paving bricks. Then our board – most of who were current or retired basketball coaches – recruited volunteers in every county to “sell” those bricks to individuals, and alumni of the 1100 current and former high schools in the state.
The result was a million dollars, in contributions of $500 from 1,000 organizations and $100 from 5,000 individuals – and a pretty nifty outdoor exhibit, because all those names were placed geographically.
Back in 1988 we kept track of all these donors in a homemade database using a DOS program called Q&A. I wish we had Bloomerang back then!
I’ve enjoyed my 27 years in the nonprofit world, including another capital campaign for the Indiana State Museum that was as top-heavy with big gifts as the Hall of Fame’s campaign was bottom-heavy with small gifts.
Every nonprofit has its own unique challenges and opportunities, but I’ve got a soft spot for organizations that are building from scratch or jumping to the next level. I like it that Bloomerang offers the flexibility to be customized for wherever an organization is in its life cycle, and I’m looking forward to helping our customers thrive.
Those 10-12 minutes of an inspirational fundraising story will stick with me for many more years. Sometimes those perfect combinations like peanut butter and chocolate do come together in a beautiful manner. I hope all of you are able to combine multiple passions numerous times in your life. If so, you are quite lucky and I am truly envious!