The Parable of the Unemployed Fundraiser

Here is a story a friend of mine who works as a development officer told me recently. It’s a true story that I think could function as  a modern day parable.

The President and Vice-President for Development at a prominent north eastern university scheduled a meeting with a wealthy alumnus potential donor. The University was in the process of raising $5M to build a new cafeteria on campus. The appointed day and time arrived for the President and VP to meet with the donor. Their plan was to ask for a lead gift for the project.

The President made her eloquent pitch for the reason and purpose for the new cafeteria, how it would help the students and recruitment into the future. Then it was the VP for Development’s turn to ask for the gift. He precisely and clearly articulated, “Mr. Smith, would you be willing to make the lead gift of $2.5M to name the new facility?”

Mr. Smith sat up in his chair, pushed back from his desk, opened his desk drawer, reached in and pulled out a check which he had already filled out. He began to tear up the check as he said, “Oh, I thought you were here to ask me for the whole $5M.” After which he promptly began writing a $2.5M check, exactly the amount for which was asked.

If this story  can function as a parable, that would mean it could be taken in several directions.

  1. You never get more than you ask for.
  2. Ask for what you need, not what you think you can get.
  3. Don’t do things halfway.
  4. $2.5 million is still $2.5 million.
  5. Never look a gift horse in the mouth
  6. If you get one scoop of icecream, don’t complain that you didn’t get two.
  7. Other….?
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