Archive | November, 2014

Fundraising lessons from Mayor Menino

13 Nov




Boston’s beloved former mayor, Thomas Menino, passed away recently and it was a gut-punch to the many Boston people and organizations that he supported.

I came across this article, in the Chronicle of Philanthropy that tells us about his not-so-unique, but “old school” way of getting things done.

He showed up.

He looked you in the eye.

He shook your hand.

He asked you personally for help.

The article states how most of Boston can say that they have met Mayor Menino.  I was lucky enough to meet him a few times. I remember meeting him when I worked at Project Bread – The Walk for Hunger. He was being honored for advocating for free school breakfast and lunches for low-income kids.  He really wanted the underprivileged kids of Boston to eat well so they could fuel their own success.  I went up to congratulate him as he was leaving the event and he took MY hand, looked me in MY eye and asked me to make sure we keep doing good work for the kids of the city.

A bunch of years later, I was able to chat with Mayor Menino again when he visited the Hatch Shell for the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk.  At the time, we were celebrating the 10th anniversary of the event and he was taking a group of VIPs for a walk across the yet-to-be opened Zakim Bunker Hill bridge.  It was lit up pink to commemorate the anniversary.  A staff person introduced me as the Walk Manager, and he said that I should be walking over that bridge with them.  He then took MY hand, and looked me in MY eye and told me that he knew that “the captain cannot leave the ship.”  Mayor Menino had been to enough events to know that I had to stay at the rodeo instead of being part of the ceremony on the bridge.

Mayor Menino was a good friend to the American Cancer Society.  He gave city employees paid time off to get regular cancer screenings. This was a long time ago, before he was given his own cancer diagnosis.   It was a shame that he did not have a lot of time after leaving office to enjoy his time out of City Hall.

So what does this have to do with walkathons?

Mayor Menino did not rely on social media or emails to communicate with people.  He used electronic communications as a supplemental too.   His preferred method of communication was to be present and look people in the eye when he asked for something.  It was this personal connection that allowed his staff and community to feel like they had a relationship with him.  In turn, he received their support.

I think we can all raise alot more money if we stop relying on the email-generator to ask for fundraising support.  I remember when walk papers had an area where you had to ask for a donation and the supporter would actually fill in their name and address on the form.  After the event, you would go back, say thanks, and collect your check.  Old School.  A conversation was had.  Twice. We were able to look our potential supporter in the eye and ask them for a donation. At the end, we could once again look them in the eye to say ‘thanks.”

We can all learn from the Mayor Menino Method.  Rest in Peace, Mr. Mayor.