Skip to content

The Power of Vision

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in fundraising comes from a story that is told about my alma mater, Tufts University, when I was a student there back in the late 70’s. I knew of our new President, Jean Mayer, world renowned nutritionist, but did not appreciate all he brought to the university.

When I returned to Tufts as a member of the development office, the only person in the country to be employed by a university to raise funds for a Hillel (an independent Jewish communal organization with chapters on hundreds of campuses nationwide), I learned how vision can transform an institution.

Tufts University was founded in 1852 when Charles Tufts answered the question of what he would do with his land on the hill in Medford with, “I will set a light upon it.” Tufts grew into a relatively prestigious university during the next century but when it came to true expansion and growth it did was not in the same league as other colleges and universities in its class.

Jean Mayer set out to change that. He consulted with his development staff and told them of his big plans. They said it could not be done. He commissioned a feasibility study to determine how large a capital campaign he could launch. Who was right, the new President or the team that new its donors? The answer came back, “with your current resources you could raise $80 million in the next five years.” The development office knew its stuff. The President announced a $200 million campaign and accepted resignations.

The long /component/option,com_jcalpro/Itemid,28/extmode,cal/date,2107-08-01/”>medicament cialis story takes five years, but the greatest lesson is in the short story. The consultants were right. With the resources Tufts had at the beginning of the campaign, they raised $80 million. But Jean Mayer had brought more resources to the table. He found people who shared his vision and at the end of that 5 year campaign, Tufts University achieved its goal of raising $200 million.

The point of the story is not that feasibility studies are not important, they are critical to the success of any campaign. But feasibility studies have their limits where there are no limits on vision. Napolean Hill said, “Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.”

Every great fundraising campaign starts with a vision. And when you share that vision, when others can see it too, then you are well on your way to a successful campaign. You have to stand on the empty hill and show people the buildings, show them the families, and show them the students. The lesson of Proverbs 29:18, is no more powerful than in the world of fundraising and charitable endeavors, “Where there is no vision, the people perish…”