The Top 1% doesn’t interest me…not their money, anyway

“Where are the donation envelopes?”

“We don’t have any.”

“Are you freaking kidding me?”

“Unfortunately no.”

“Where are people supposed to donate their money?”

“Bank transfer.”

Fundraising for non-profits – I am passionate about it. I have been doing it for a long time.

I’m a well-oiled fundraising/branding machine and I’m good at it. I go into a situation and immediately assess a few things.

First, I identify the problem areas. Usually, the image needs tweaking and the mission for the campaign needs to be clearer/updated/pertinent to more people than the smaller, inner circle. (And a huge “problem area” for raising money is usually the people that are in positions of power within the organization. They are the worst fundraisers because the reason funds need to be raised usually keeps these fine ladies and gents awake at night. They have been crunching numbers, begging, pleading for so long, they are death gripping the steering wheel…and it’s hard to get them to let go. Hard, but necessary.)

Second, I look at the organization’s strengths and weaknesses. I am ready to tell anyone who will listen the strengths and I am creative about what they are. I am also ready to defend the weaknesses with as much Texas charm as I can put on. (Always a challenge these days when the organization has a religious affiliation and what a horrible commentary that is on our society. Horrible these faith workers have to stop their good deeds to raise money and horrible we are embarrassed to claim “Jewish” or “Christian” or “Muslim” ties. Great thing about me, I’m a religious pluralist. I don’t have an issue with a person’s faith. I got a Jewish guy to donate 250K to a church in NYC. True story.)

Step five or six is my favorite. That’s when I have a peek at the existing donor base. It’s usually full of devoted people that have been approached for money every time there’s a crisis. Once I start working, I immediately call these people, thank them, and let them know we’re not interested in them…just their contacts. (True story, again.)

Then, I get to work. I don’t ask a lot of questions, I don’t need a ton of help (just a good, tight team), and I don’t need to be paid for it.

When I leave a project, the goal has always been met (or exceeded). Here’s what I mean by “goal.”

I don’t aim for big money donors. Naturally, I want to (and do) get the money needed. However, with my strategy, I get both the money I need and something far better than that…I get loyalty.

I will have a street fair, a book drive, a 2nd-hand shoe bazaar, a FB fan page, a Twitter hashtag, I don’t care…I don’t want the 1% of givers. I want the other 99%. I don’t want a lot of their money, just a little.

It’s their loyalty I want. I want them to get so passionate about the project, they cannot help but, as Bubs would say, “get involved.” I want the leaders of the organization NOT to have to repeat the fundraising in 10 years because only 8 people donated 8 million. I want a database. When a catastrophe hits, there are 8 MILLION PEOPLE READY TO GIVE. See how it goes? (Okay, 8 million is a lot, but it was a great image, right?)

I cannot imagine anything worse than hearing, “We are targeting a few key donors” when a fundraising project has started. Well, worse than that is probably, “We’re keeping the project hush-hush for a few months.” No, worse than both, “We don’t need your help.” That is something I would never say to a volunteer offering his or her time/talents or a person with only 5 cents to give.


Things need to change in fundraising. Obama’s campaign taught me that my gut instinct was right. It’s about the kid that gives 2CHF or $1.50 from his piggy bank. He’s gonna grow up and love the Hospice or CBSM or Genesis or St. John’s and and and. I need that kid.

And when that kid introduces me to his multi-billionaire granddad, I’ll smile and tell him, “Give us what you can, but just get involved, okay?”

He’ll give money, too. Know why? Because they both believe me. It’s easy to convince people when you’re authentic and honest…and real.

The Pilgrim and the Politician

A man begins a pilgrimage to Rome in Canterbury, England, and eventually arrives at the Hospice of Grand St. Bernard. As he walks, he carries 88 years of joy, sorrow, and a rather large backpack on his back.

Traveling from Bern to the Hospice of Grand St. Bernard is another man, who is also on a journey. As he makes his way, he carries the arrival of a new baby and the weight of his country’s future on his back.

Pilgrims walk for different reasons. Our pilgrim walked, but he did not know why. He only knew he was called to walk and was uninterested in “why.” Politicians attend events for a myriad of reasons. Our politician attended an event in late June because he knew he should be there. He didn’t pay much attention to “why.” Both men were answering a call.

Nationality separated them. Language separated them. Normal, everyday differences separated them.

Why did Brian walk? Why did Christophe attend that concert?

Perhaps one of the many reasons Brian walked and Christophe attended that concert could be this blog post and the mere fact that you are reading it.

It’s 2014 and we can be jaded and cynical. Most of us see politicians as untouchable and most of us do not pay any attention to pilgrims. A politician would never waste his time talking to a pilgrim and they certainly would not be at the same event because politicians go to fancy places and pilgrims do not.


There are still places in this world that transcend language, nationality, age, religious beliefs, socio-economic differences. There are still places that bring people together for a common purpose, known or yet unknown. There are still places where two men from completely different walks of life can be brought together to share things – ideas, music, Raclette. There are places where the sting of cynicism is made weak.

We have to treasure these places and nourish them. We must feed them with our time, with our resources, and with our very best intentions. We have to look at these places as true sanctuaries because that is what they are.

They are places where the shoes on your feet do not matter. They are places where the color of your hair, your skin, your coat…none of it matters. They are places where a pilgrim and a politician are both seen as exactly what they are:  God’s children – truly equal and worthy of unconditional love and acceptance.

We must give our best to these places and the people walking into them. Both are deserving of our adoration.

I could say many things about the pilgrim and the politician. They are two of the finest men I have met in a very long time. It is not the point. The point is much simpler than that.

There is a place on the border between Switzerland and Italy where a pilgrim and a politician sat together and shared an important life moment.

That place is the Hospice of Grand St. Bernard.

You should go there and give it your best. If you cannot go there, you can still give it your best.

Donate 5 dollars, 10 Euro, 20 CHF, or 100,000£. What is your best? Give that.

Hospice du Gd-St-Bernard – 1946 Bourg-St-Pierre – Suisse
Union de Banque Suisse – 1920 Martigny
IBAN        CH50 0026 4264 6946 8001 X
BIC          UBSWCHZH80A

If we don’t give these places our best, how can this happen?

The Pilgrim and the Politician
The Pilgrim and the Politician



The Hospice of Grand St. Bernard

Written at 2AM on June 29th at The Hospice of Grand St. Bernard

High on the mountain, just next to the official border between Switzerland and Italy, which is in a lake, sits the Hospice of Grand St. Bernard.

This weekend celebrated a great many things: the Treasury, the Collège Chapittet, the renovations underway to save the Hospice from dilapidation and decay. Read it clearly: complete closure. After 1000 years of service. Because that will happen someday soon if the Hospice is not saved. (PLEASE donate: Hospice du GSB- Union de Banque Suisse-1920 Martigy- IBAN CH50 0026 4264 6946 8001 X – BIC UBSWCHZH80A)

Moving on, I think it is safe to say, many of those who gathered this weekend did not know each other. Many people who crossed the threshold of the Hospice of Grand St. Bernard this weekend were strangers to each other. It’s just normal. What is not normal is the outcome.

They left as part of a family: the ever-growing, all-loving Hospice family.

Even for those of us, like me, who are veterans – it’s always a new family, you see? New faces, new stories, new names. Every day, the Hospice family is re-energized by “newness” and it is through this heart that the Hospice will always give warmth and light, even when it is a time of darkness or cold.

Pilgrims (like Brian) embrace physical endurance testers (like Mr. X from Vaud). Canons, deacons, and oblates break bread (or cheese) with Switzerland’s in-the- valley-working folks. Others are seeking peace and encounter someone in direct service (like Jackson). At the Hospice, we all fight for the same thing: peace. Peace not only for ourselves in this moment. Peace for all who are in need.

Because we are family. We are all the Hospice of Grand St. Bernard family and now we have new additions in Jackson and Alex, who contributed so much to make this weekend’s concerts happen. Hospice angels.

God bless José, Frédéric, Anne-Marie, Raphaël, Pascal, Jean-Michel, L, Anne-Laure, Christophe and the Campaign committee, Raphaëlle, Annick and Stefan, and many others. We all use our gifts to support the Hospice. That’s what we do.

I wish everyone could be lucky enough to join this family. It is a family that will never let you fall.

Opening notes of "Snow"

On a personal note:

It’s hard to point to a favorite moment, but I think the moment José laid eyes on me when I arrived was one of the best moments in my life. No one has ever been so happy to see me and let me know it. HUGE smile, eyes dancing, big bear hug. José – ich bin deine Schutzengeli und immer so.

Jackson Henry at the Hospice is too much goodness to handle. Seeing his feet walk out of the Customs door after over a decade of geographical distance is something I cannot explain. Jackson is one of my top five favorite people on the planet – he is my soul’s twin brother.