Case Study

Just Having Lunch Raises Millions

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Just Having Lunch Raises Millions

When we received this note from Jack Hillard, Director of Development, Kentucky Blood Center, Lexington, KY, we were intrigued. . .

"The inspiration, passion and genuine straightforward advice of "Let's Have Lunch Together" together with Marshall's workshop, helped the Kentucky Blood Center overcome very real obstacles to raise several million dollars in a recent capital campaign!"

"This, after two feasibility studies by leading national consulting firms said it couldn't be done. They advised our board against the campaign. It's amazing what can happen, when you just go and begin a conversation with friends, neighbors, even strangers!"

Here's some background on the challenge the Blood Center faced.

There are 70 independent nonprofit Blood Centers in the nation supplying 55% - 60% of all blood products needed (the rest comes from the Red Cross). Started in 1968, the Kentucky Blood Center grew to serve 59 counties in eastern and central Kentucky, covering 70 hospitals, two million people and more than 100,000 products donated by 40,000 people each year. These products are essential to any patient undergoing major cancer surgery, chemotherapy, heart surgery or a premature birth.

"In 2002, we knew we had to expand. We are highly regulated and faced an absolute need to expand," Jack said.

However, two well-known capital campaign consultants told the Blood Center they were unequivocally not ready to raise several million dollars. "They said we were well-known, but since we had never run a philanthropic campaign, people would never think of giving us money. They didn't think there was sufficient financial support in our community to raise money of this magnitude," Jack explained. "We could float a bond issue, borrow the money or raise it. "

Soon after, Jack and his development assistant Denise Fields met Marshall Howard at an America's Blood Center's conference and attended his workshop. 'We loved Marshall's book and learned a lot about relationship fundraising. We were inspired to start by simply inviting people to lunch and using his techniques."

"Internally, we called these events 'Community Leader Lunches.' We had done enough prospecting that we knew some of the philanthropists and leaders in Lexington," Jack said.

They began with some internal resources. "I'm sure our CEO at the time would have never believed we could attract the people we needed."

Little by little, people began to attend the first few lunches and this gave the team the confidence to continue this effort. "The lunches were held in our old building. We focused on getting to know people, as Marshall suggests, and did not make an 'ask.'

"I told people my personal story about how blood transfusions after my chemo treatments were instrumental in helping me survive cancer. At the end of the lunch, we invited people to look at the footprint of the building and noted that we could not expand here. We let them know we had secured land two miles away. We added that we thought the community would want to step up and support this effort and asked them for suggestions," said Jack.

Through this process they met a very influential community leader, Ted. He ran a famous thoroughbred racecourse and the world's most prestigious thoroughbred auction company, located in Lexington.

"Fundraising is sequential," Jack commented. "A few weeks later, one of our trustees asked Ted if we could visit with him and bring lunch to his office (another technique Marshall suggests)."

Ted told them that, until the luncheon, he had not thought about what happened to him during World War II in the Battle of Okinawa. He was seriously wounded. While he was recuperating on a hospital ship, he received several blood transfusions."'

"I haven't thought about that in 60 years," he said. "In fact, my employees give blood every year, yet I have never donated. Let me know how I can help you."

One month later, Ted convened about 50 of his friends and colleagues at a luncheon. One of the CEOs of a major hospital told the audience they could not be in business without the Blood Center. There were lots of personal stories – one Bank executive who joined the Board, has siblings and described how they were treated with blood products during cancer therapy.

Ted first reached out to Toyota and secured $100,000. After that, he helped secure $150,000 to 250,000 gifts from the area's major hospitals as well as other corporate donations.

Ground was broken on the new 40,000 square foot building "one year, five months and 12 days later, despite the fact that two national consultants said it couldn't be done," Jack commented.

"In addition to the capital campaign contributions, we also received several federal grants because many of our visits included congressional representatives," Jack said.

"We truly did what Marshall taught us through his materials and training; 'chase the relationship not the money.' His techniques gave us the confidence to take our negative - no one would think of giving us money - into a positive of just having lunch with people. You know, you can truly do fundraising like this forever," Jack concluded.

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