Jerold Panas (1928-2018), He Will Be Missed

When I opened my email inbox this morning, a profoundly heartbreaking news item jumped out at me. Legendary fundraising professional Jerold Panas died over the weekend. The email from Jerry Linzy, Executive Partner at Jerold Panas, Linzy & Partners reads:

It is with sadness, Jerold Panas, Linzy & Partners announce that Jerry Panas, Founder of Jerold Panas, Linzy & Partners and long time Chief Executive Partner died quietly in his sleep, Saturday, July 14, 2018.

Jerold Panas (1928-2018)

A private, family service is planned. A Memorial Service to celebrate the life of Jerry Panas will be scheduled in the future. Condolences may be sent to Felicity Panas in care of:

Jerold Panas, Linzy & Partners

500 North Michigan Avenue, S-1035

Chicago, IL 60611

Jerry Linzy, Executive Partner, Emeritus will serve as Interim Chief Executive. Business will continue as usual. All questions should be directed to Jerry Linzy,, or by calling 312.961.3221.

Felicity and the family want to express their appreciation for all who have been a Friend of Jerry. A complete biography of Jerry Panas’ life and his vast contribution to the world of philanthropy will be forthcoming.

All of us at Jerold Panas, Linzy & Partners share the loss of our leader, Jerry Panas. He was a colleague, friend, mentor, and innovative, philanthropic icon.  He will forever be, to use Ernest Hemingway’s salute:

‘The winner and undisputed champion.’”

Since Panas started it in 1968, his consulting firm has served over 3,800 clients around the world. Panas wrote 20 books including such classics as ASKING, Mega Gifts, and Born to Raise. He also shared his knowledge in countless professional presentations. By directly helping charities to raise more money and by educating fundraising professionals, Panas has touched the lives, both directly and indirectly, of countless people around the globe. His impact on the nonprofit sector and on the lives of people in general has been profound.

In 2014, the Association of Fundraising Professionals presented Panas with the Chairman’s Award: “For your extraordinary contribution to the nonprofit sector. Our profession would look very different without your involvement . . . you have influenced philanthropy in a way no other fundraiser has.”

While I wish I knew him much better, I did have occasion to speak with him from time-to-time. Many years ago, I saw Panas speak at a fundraising conference. Afterward, I approached him about a tough challenge I was facing with a particular project. I expected him to give me a quick, off-the-cuff generic response or suggest I contact him in his office. Instead, he took the time right then and there to listen to me, probe my situation, and provide a couple of valuable insights and ideas. Only then did he invite me to contact in his office if I wanted to explore the issue further. In short, I found him generous with his time and his wisdom. He was always a true gentleman.

Panas could have retired decades ago. No one would have faulted him if he had. But, he didn’t. For Panas, fundraising was not a job; it was a calling. We are all better off because he felt that way.

While no words can eliminate the pain of the Panas family at this difficult time, I hope that they will find some comfort in the knowledge that Jerry Panas has made the world a better place.

I invite you to share your memories of Jerry Panas below in the comment section.

That’s what Michael Rosen says… What do you say?

29 Responses to “Jerold Panas (1928-2018), He Will Be Missed”

  1. A real loss to our profession. While I never had the opportunity to meet him, I’ve read his books, followed his articles in industry publications, and always came away with a fresh perspective. I only hope that I can apply what I learned from him in ways he would approve. Very sad…

  2. Thank you for sharing your story about Jerry Panas. I had always found him a wonderful speaker and teacher, and someone to proudly claim as a leader in our field. RIP Jerry Panas. You deserve a special place in heaven for helping to make our world a better place:-)

  3. Jerry and I were friends and respectful colleagues and competitors over the decades. We corresponded more in recent years as we both, I think, felt time was shorter. Jerry complimented me always and I was proud to present him the well deserved chair award when I chaired AFP. He made us all better professionals. I’ll miss him. I always knew he was there helping someone. Now he is gone and I am sad.

  4. Beautiful tribute. I, too, felt heartbroken when I saw the subject line of the email. My story has to do with the book that I’m working on. I used to be in touch with Jerry periodically via email and an infrequent phone conversation. I told him how inspired I was by the books he had written and how impactful they were and that I was writing one myself. He wrote me a letter that is still up on my office wall years later, it says: “Get that book written! And make sure you send me a copy, I’m already looking forward to reading it!”

    I don’t know that we’ll find a more generous professional.

    • Susan, thank you for sharing your Jerry Panas story. In part due to his fine example, I have tried to generously share my knowledge with others, as you have. By sharing what we know, we magnify the positive impact we can have in the world. Continuing to embrace that part of Jerry’s legacy is just one way we can all honor him.

  5. I was fortunate to hear him speak on a couple of occasions. Full of wisdom, a consummate gentleman, patient listener, brilliant writer, and extraordinary storyteller. He also told the best fundraiser jokes! A giant in our field. RIP Jerry….May your wisdom, wit and moxie carry on in the generations you taught!

  6. I had the distinct honor and privilege of working with Mr. Panas directly when his firm coordinated a capital campaign for the organization I was serving many years ago. He was wise beyond belief. He knew that the capital campaign that was planned for the organization was ill-fated. He told the leaders that the timing was not right, his advice was not heeded, the campaign forged on, and it was not successful. Even in a negative situation, he was thoughtful and honest – a trait I admire in a professional in our field. Despite his honesty, I sensed that he felt as if he let the organization down. He didn’t. The leaders at that time did. Mr. Panas was – and always will be – the embodiment of our profession and its ethical standards.

  7. I just received the news that Jerry is no longer with us in body, but I know he is with us in spirit. What Jerry Panas has meant to my life is indescribable. He was my mentor, advisor and inspiration to me personally and professionally. As I have journeyed through the philanthropic fundraising spectrum, my guiding mantra and credo was: “What Would Jerry Do, Say, React, Execute?”

    I patterned my business after his model because it was all about excellence. When we spoke via telephone he listened and offered advice and more importantly always asking, what he could do to help. He never said no to my request to partner on projects, always focusing on my success.

    As an African American it was extremely important to me to have a mentor who on the face of things, would be an unlikely mentor. Jerry was a political conservative. I am a liberal. Jerry leaned to the Christian right. I leaned to the social justice/redemptive gospel. These differences were fundamental yet I absolutely adored Jerry Panas. With Felicity by his side, he represented the epitome of values, resilience, and higher thinking.

    We worked on several projects over the years with the joy of a profession we both loved and cared about. Philanthropy.

    I will miss him more than words can express.

    • Gasby, thank you for sharing your experiences with Jerry. In today’s highly-polarized, politicized society, your story shows that it is possible to find common ground to improve the world. You and Jerry have set a fine example.

  8. I’ve been teaching fundraising courses at Concordia University and McGill University in Montréal for 16 years, and I’ve always opened the courses by talking about Jerry Panas’s concepts of integrity fundraising and “listening the gift.” But I didn’t actually get to attend one of his workshops until 5 years ago, when he came to Montréal at the invitation of the AFP Québec Chapter. He was every bit as dynamic and insightful as I’d always heard (he even pulled me out of the audience as a “guinea pig” for part of his presentation!).

    I still use the late Hank Rosso among my professional sources, long after his passing, and I have no doubt that Jerry Panas’s perspicacity with regard to philanthropy will also live on for decades to come.

    • Shaun, thank you for your thoughts about Jerry Panas. He was definitely a great teacher. He taught us about fundraising. He taught us about how to be a fundraising professional. He taught us how to teach. He taught us to be generous with our knowledge. Those he touched, his books, and his videos will ensure that his legacy endures.

  9. I could not let another day pass without giving a tribute to Jerry, my mentor, my friend.

    After a decade-long career in nonprofit administration, I branched into higher-ed development in the mid-1990’s. I was urged strongly, during my tenure as a Director of Development at a major Big Ten University, to be a part of one of the seminars of Jerry and IoG.

    What an experience! Most of what I gained as a fundraising professional was obtained from his seminars and professional development material. I actually had a chance to talk to him personally during one of his “parkbenching” sessions. His slow, kind spirit advised me as I gave input to my university as we were embarking on a seemingly impossible $96 million Capital Campaign. He gently guided me about what tends to work. To make a long story short, we not only met our goals, but exceeded them and raised a historic $105 million!

    In the seminars and beyond, he stressed the importance of prospect research as it relates to obtaining large gifts. He said that many donors are often insulted because we do not ask for enough!!! (My perspective radically changed after such a revelation.)

    Much of me believes that Jerry’s advice has helped me tremendously, both in my personal and professional life. I have purchased many of his books, which I have attempted to memorize and devour!!!!

    There are two artifacts that I am staring at as I write this courtesy of “Jerry and company.” One is a desk tent that says “If you can read this….you are not out calling on prospects.” The other is a STOP sign on my door, which says “Do not enter this office unless you are prepared to make a large gift!”

    Yes, my heart is broken. But he left a legacy and tens of thousands of us are better fundraising professionals because of his legacy. Rest on!

    I read the other comments, and yes, I too am an African American professional. None of that seemed to matter when I talked to him because a donor is a donor is a donor.

  10. I was a bit surprised to learn that Jerry Panus and I started our work in fundraising in the same year, 1968. And while my contributions don’t hold a candle to his, his work has often inspired me to keep going to listen more than talk and so much more. This is an enormous loss to the profession. All of us owe him our life’s work. He will be dearly missed by us all who strive to emulate his wisdom for our clients.

  11. About once a week, I refer to Mr. Panas and his work. His work has supported me through many conversations with first-time board members reticent to fundraise.

  12. Impressive gentleman. I never had the pleasure of meeting him. However, I am thankful for the legacy he left.

  13. For several years, I was a Jerry Panas groupie. I went to fundraising conferences to hear him speak. He told amazing stories, gave thoughtful advice, and I came to know many of them. I will always tell people about “the hug”. I was fortunate to attend two of his Institute for Charitable Giving sessions, and have several of his books. While it is always sad to see someone leave this earth, I am glad that he did not suffer and passed so peacefully. He was my mentor, a for sure, a superhero in the wisdom of philanthropy. I loved the “listening for the gift” comment – so Jerry, so true. Rest in peace, wonderful man.

  14. I have read several of Jerry’s books and attended one of his seminars. He truly impacted the nonprofit world and taught many fundraisers the art and science of the profession. I can’t think of another person who has impacted the profession as much as Jerry!


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