Posts tagged ‘Gerry Lenfest’

August 7, 2018

Mega-Philanthropist with Profound Legacy:H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest (1930 -2018)

H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest, cable-television pioneer, mega-philanthropist, and civic leader, has died at the age of 88. His extraordinary generosity and wisdom will have a lasting impact.

I had the privilege of knowing Gerry. I was especially honored that he provided the Foreword to my book, Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing. I want to share some of his astute words with you. However, I first want to tell you a bit about this great man and his exceptional life.

Gerry Lenfest (left) with Michael Rosen.

Gerry was not born into great wealth. He was born in Jacksonville, FL, and raised in Scarsdale, NY and later on the family farm in Hunterdon County, NJ. After his mother died when he was 13-years-old, his father sent him to the George School, a private boarding academy. A troubled student, he was invited not to return after just one year.

At his new school, young Gerry continued to be something of a juvenile delinquent, his own description. Finally, his father enrolled him at Mercersburg Academy where teenage Gerry began to excel.

Following high school, Gerry was directionless. He worked as a roughneck in North Dakota, a farm hand, and as a crew member on an oil tanker. Eventually, he attended Washington and Lee University where he received an undergraduate economics degree. He served in the U.S. Navy, rising to the rank of captain. In 1955, he married Marguerite Brooks, an elementary school teacher. Gerry went on to receive his law degree from Columbia University and, then, served with a prestigious New York law firm.

Walter Annenberg hired Gerry in 1965 to work at Triangle Publications, Inc., owner of Seventeen and TV Guide magazines, the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News newspapers, television and radio stations, and several cable television properties. With the help of loans and two investors, he bought two tiny cable systems from Annenberg in 1974 to start Lenfest Communications. In 2000, Gerry’s company had grown from 7,600 subscribers to over 1 million to become the 11th largest cable company in the nation. That same year, he sold the company to Comcast, netting $1.2 billion in the deal.

Gerry always attributed his great success to the skill and dedication of his various teams and good fortune, whether in business or with the nonprofit organizations he worked with. Knowing he owed much of his success in life to others motivated him, in turn, to help others.

The Lenfests signed on to The Giving Pledge, a movement of wealthy individuals who commit to donating the majority of their fortunes. Over more than two decades, the Lenfests have donated more than $1.3 billion to over 1,200 nonprofit organizations. The top 10 recipients of support from the Lenfests are (source: Philly.com):

ORGANIZATION DOLLARS IN MILLIONS
Columbia University 155.0
Lenfest Institute for Journalism 129.5
Mercersburg Academy 109.0
Philadelphia Museum of Art 107.3
Washington and Lee University  81.0
Museum of the American Revolution  63.0
Curtis Institute of Music  60.0
Lenfest (Pew) Ocean Program  53.3
Wilson College  40.0
Lenfest Scholars Program  32.0

In addition to his enormous philanthropy, Gerry served on a number of nonprofit boards including Columbia University, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Museum of the American Revolution, which he helped create. In 2005, Gerry and Marguerite were awarded the Association of Fundraising Professionals Award for Outstanding Philanthropists.

You can read more about Gerry Lenfest’s extraordinary story by clicking here.

While I could say much, much more about Gerry and his tremendous, positive impact, I’d rather share some of Gerry’s own words with you. Gerry provides some sage advice for fundraising professionals about what they must do to secure significant contributions:

Knowing your prospects and understanding what motivates them are two critical steps in the [philanthropic] process. Quite simply, you cannot skip cultivation and relationship building and expect a successful outcome.”

Lenfest was also keenly aware that the fundraising process should not end when an organization receives a donation. He advises:

Do not make the mistake of forgetting about us once you receive our gift commitment. We may truly appreciate how efficiently and effectively you handle contributed funds so much that we entrust you with another [donation]. We are also in a position to influence others to do the same.”

As a strong advocate for planned giving, Gerry observes:

read more »

Advertisements
February 24, 2017

What is the Special Ingredient that Leads to #Fundraising Success?

Do you know the special ingredient for creating fundraising success?

You’ll notice I didn’t say “secret ingredient.” That’s because it’s not a secret. It’s actually common sense. The reason I’m writing about it is that it is not yet common practice to the degree it should be.

The special ingredient is: building relationships.

Gerry Lenfest, 21st century philanthropist and Giving Pledge member, explained the importance of developing relationships when writing the Foreword to my book, Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing:

Knowing your prospects and understanding what motivates them are two critical steps in the [philanthropic] process. Quite simply, you cannot skip cultivation and relationship building and expect a successful outcome…. Do not make the mistake of forgetting about us once you receive our gift commitment. We may truly appreciate how efficiently and effectively you handle contributed funds so much that we entrust you with another planned gift. We are also in a position to influence others to do the same…”

While Lenfest’s comments were about planned giving, they certainly apply to any type of fundraising. Strong relationships are the key ingredient to a successful philanthropic process. By building meaningful relationships, you will:

  • Acquire more donors
  • Retain more donors
  • Upgrade more donors
  • Acquire more planned gifts
  • Generate more major gifts
  • Inspire donors to become ambassadors for your organization

Unfortunately, the nonprofit sector in general is terrible at building relationships. This is one major reason that donor-retention rates have been steadily falling for years, according to the Fundraising Effectiveness Project. While there is no shortage of great how-to material out there, charities are still failing to grasp the importance of embracing a robust stewardship program as part of the philanthropic process. You can search this site for donor retention to get some great tips.

For now, however, I want to share a heartwarming story of what can happen when you establish strong relationships with donors and inspire them to be ambassadors.

John’s Roast Pork is a destination sandwich stand in Philadelphia. John Bucci’s family-owned establishment has been around since 1930 serving the best roast pork sandwiches in the city. (Hey, Philly is about more than john-bucci-of-johns-roast-porkcheese steak sandwiches, though they serve those, too.) The James Beard Foundation designated the establishment as an “American Classic” for roast pork.

Unfortunately, earlier this month, John’s was burglarized. The perpetrator(s) got away with a few thousand dollars. The burglary also shut down the business until repairs could be made. The stolen sum included $1,500 that had been collected to benefit Be the Match, operated by the National Marrow Donor Program. The charity maintains the world’s largest and most diverse bone marrow donor registry.

Be the Match is important to Bucci. Several years ago, he fought a fierce battle with leukemia and was ultimately successfully treated with a bone marrow transplant. Since then, Bucci has been a supporter. At one point when he contacted the organization, he requested to meet his marrow donor so he could thank the person. However, he was told that the organization’s guidelines did not permit this. Here’s what Bucci told Philly.com he did instead:

read more »

April 26, 2016

The World Loses a Passionate Advocate for #Philanthropy

The Philadelphia area has lost a passionate advocate for philanthropy.

R. Andrew Swinney, past President of The Philadelphia Foundation, passed away on Sunday, April 24. He had suffered with ALS for a year.

During his 16 years at the helm, the Foundation grew its asset base from $148 million to $370 million. In addition, the number of component charitable funds at the Foundation quadrupled.

R. Andrew Swinney

R. Andrew Swinney

As the head of a community foundation, Swinney was a strong advocate for collaboration. In 2014, he told Generocity.org:

We need to have some form of collective approach — the rising of all boats…. We need the sectors to come together, and the community as a whole, to make a collective impact.”

In that spirit, Swinney and The Philadelphia Foundation worked closely with the Association of Fundraising Professionals Greater Philadelphia Chapter and the Partnership for Philanthropic Planning of Greater Philadelphia. For example, when I was President of PPPGP, Swinney agreed to sponsor a special program involving mega-philanthropist H.F. (Gerry) Lenfest. We designed the program to promote legacy giving to both the philanthropic and nonprofit communities. It was one of our best-attended events.

I enjoyed the opportunity to work with Swinney. And I was honored when Swinney endorsed my book Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing:

Never has there been a better time to talk about planned giving. It is an effective tool for developing resources for an organization and it is a meaningful way to truly engage with one’s donors. This book provides a thorough roadmap for both the nonprofit that needs to start and the nonprofit that needs to expand their efforts in developing an effective, well-planned, and successful development effort using planned giving.”

While Swinney believed in the power of current giving, he also valued legacy giving because it allows donors to continue to do good long after they pass.

read more »

June 26, 2015

Are You Wasting Time by Hunting Unicorns?

Go to any fundraising conference, and you’ll find unicorn hunters. You might even be one. You can see the unicorn hunters in seminar sessions about Charitable Remainder Annuity Trusts (CRATs), Charitable Lead Trusts (CLTs), and Charitable Remainder Uni-Trusts (CRUTs).

Unicorn hunters believe that Trusts are the cornerstone to a healthy planned giving program. Unicorn hunters scour the wealthiest portion of their donor files to find Trust prospects and then focus an enormous amount of time and energy trying to close big Trust gifts.

Unicorn by Rob Boudon via FlickrSome would-be unicorn hunters are overwhelmed by the hunt. They fear they have no prospects and/or they fear they have insufficient knowledge to pursue such gifts. So, they don’t implement any kind of planned giving effort.

Well, here’s your reality check, courtesy of Giving USA 2015: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2014.

As the chart below reveals, the number of Trusts is tiny compared to the number of Public Charities which stood at 963,234 in 2012 (not including religious congregations and organizations with less than $5,000 in revenue), according to the Urban Institute’s The Nonprofit Sector in Brief 2014.

Even if every single charity that received a Trust gift only received one, that would mean that less than 12 percent of charities would have received a Trust gift in 2012. In other words, the likelihood that a fundraiser will close a Trust gift is very small in any given year. Moreover, the odds have been getting smaller as the number of charities has grown while the number of Trusts has declined.

Of course, that’s not quite how it works in the real world. In the real world, large organizations with large donor files containing plenty of wealthy supporters are far more likely to close Trust gifts than smaller organizations with smaller donor lists. If you don’t work at a large, established organization, the chances that you’ll close a Trust gift this year are miniscule.

 Trust Chart - 2015

While the dollars associated with Trust gifts are certainly significant, the actual number of such gifts is small. By contrast, far more people name a charity in their will, make beneficiary designations, give appreciated securities or personal property, or donate from their IRAs.

Keeping your eyes open for Trust-gift opportunities can be beneficial. However, you’re much more likely to close other types of planned gifts. This means:

read more »

January 13, 2012

Enter Now to Win a Free Planned-Giving Book

I always find January to be a bit of a let-down. By contrast, December is very festive with Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Festivus, and New Year’s Eve. But January? January is dark, cold, and filled with post-holiday malaise.

So, I thought I would do something to bring a bit of fun into January.

In honor of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Day of Service (January 16), publisher John Wiley & Sons and I will be giving away one free copy of my book, Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing.

MLK Day recognizes the birth of King while encouraging citizen action. Many in the nonprofit sector have embraced this day to promote volunteerism. Since my book helps nonprofit organizations secure much needed resources, I thought a planned-giving book give-away would be just one small thing I could do at this special time of year.

In a moment, I’ll tell you how you can enter to win. First, I want to say that I think planned giving is a very attractive way for individuals to support favorite charities, especially during challenging economic times.

A few years back, I was trying to explain to my oldest, childless aunt what it is I do for a living. I tried explaining planned giving. Grasping what I was saying, she asked, “Why on Earth would someone give to a charity after they’re dead?” I asked her, “What charities do you support now?” Among the organizations she supports is an animal welfare group. I then asked, “Who’s going to take care of the little puppies and kittens after you’re no longer here to keep writing checks?” Her eyes widened and, in that moment, I think I might have lost my inheritance.

Planned giving allows people to continue to support organizations they are passionate about after they are no longer here to keep writing checks. In addition, planned giving may help donors lower their taxes, pass money and property on to heirs in an efficient way, generate an income, or provide major gifts to organizations without making any sacrifice during their lifetime. All of these benefits of planned giving are magnified during challenging economic times.

For these reasons, among others, I strongly believe that now is a great time to talk with people about gift planning. Today, given economic uncertainty, individuals might be uncomfortable making a significant financial gift out of current cash. However, those same individuals might be perfectly willing to provide some type of deferred contribution or life-income gift.

Only 22 percent of Americans over the age of 30 say they have been approached by a nonprofit organization to consider a planned gift, according to a survey by the Stelter Company. Imagine how much more revenue would be generated if more nonprofit organizations asked more people for a planned gift.

Now, let me tell you how to enter the book give-away.

For your chance to win a free copy of Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing, simply comment below.

read more »

%d bloggers like this: