Fundraising and nonprofit life are full of intrigue, twisted paths, pure luck, genius, generosity, and more. This is the fifth in an occasional series of fictional fundraising stories.
Transforming the future of Monroe-Smith College meant Ruby would have to step into her own power in a new way. She couldn’t ask the college to do what she was cautious to embrace. Known to her peers as fearless, Ruby rarely made an uncalculated move: her fearlessness came from preparation, and the proactive answering of the perennial question “what if?”
That morning while riding up the elevator with her boss, Ruby asked him to join her for lunch with President Taylor of Monroe-Smith. “I’d like you to meet him in his new role. I believe you worked with him during his time in Congress, but this is something different.” Mr. Johnston responded with a smile. “I’d love to. We weren’t always on the same page, but I depended on him – we all did. Get it set up and I will be there.”
Ruby called President Taylor right away. “Jimmy, we got Mr. Johnston for lunch – what day are you free?” President Taylor laughed, “Ruby, I’m never free… ” Ruby interrupted him with a laugh of her own, “You can make time for the CEO of Edison Electric. Now which day is better?”
President Taylor was taken aback. “Ruby, I’m happy to host him, but shouldn’t we wait until we are more organized?” This was Ruby’s cue. She quickly replied, “Jimmy, you should know better than anyone that you don’t wait until you need something to rekindle a relationship. I just want you two in the same room. There’s no ask. Just lunch and a quick tour of the campus. I doubt he’s ever been anywhere on campus but the student center. ”
“Okay, I’ll leave this to you and my team…” the president replied, thinking he was done with the call. “Oh, that won’t work. We need to work on the message, identify which students can join the tour, which faculty offices we will ‘stop by.’ You have to be fully involved in this. You can’t “pop in” unprepared. You are the president, you have a vision, and you need to welcome this city’s stakeholders onto the campus. We cannot afford to remain isolated.” Ruby drew a deep breath and continued. “Jimmy, I put myself out there to get this meeting: you have to do your part. Monroe-Smith is where it is because too many of us have been too focused on doing ‘more important things.’ We’ve been so busy being busy and important that we’ve forgotten what’s important: relationships, community, shared vision, and forward motion. Jimmy,” she asked, “are you in, or do I need to step back and let you do this your way?”
President Taylor was surprised. He didn’t expect such a call first thing in the morning. “Ruby, I need you….” Again, Ruby interrupted him, “Does that mean you’re in?” President Taylor sighed, “Yes Ruby, I’m in.” With that Ruby chirped a warm good bye and hung up the phone. She had a lot of lists to make, people to call, and not a moment to spare.
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