Senior Vice President
As I have gotten older, I have found myself spending more and more time reflecting on my past experiences as a fundraiser. This was the case on a recent beautiful Saturday morning as I was seated on my deck, coffee cup in hand and observing a variety of birds of all shapes and sizes gorging themselves on our recently filled feeders (like I said….I am getting older….actually, I am already there).
I have been blessed to have served a variety of terrific organizations and the memorable experiences I have had are quite plentiful….the great majority of them very pleasant (the others quite possibly can be shared in a future reflection entitled “Avoiding Disasters”).
So, Eadie. Ok….so I am 31 years old and had just been named the Director of Planned Giving for The Salvation Army in New York City. I spent two weeks with the outgoing director, Russ, who was charged with bringing me up to speed on the program and to discuss those planned giving donors whom he felt I needed to pay special attention. The list was quite long and the great majority of them were gift annuitants, not surprising as the Army issues more GA contracts than just about any organization in the world….perhaps right behind the American Bible Society.
At the top of the list was Eadie. “John, I highly recommend that you make a call on all of these annuitants, but especially Eadie. She has funded several annuities and will likely create more. You see, John, the best prospect for a gift annuity is someone who already has one with us.” So I asked Russ to share with me about Eadie. “She is a great friend of the Army, 74 years old, lives alone, a bit eccentric, but someone I have always enjoyed visiting. I know you will thoroughly enjoy meeting her.”
A week later I called Eadie…..she lived in Montauk, at the far end of Long Island and about as far away from Manhattan as you can get. “Hello Eadie; my name is John Marshall with The Salvation Army and I have taken over the position held by Russ who speaks of you in the most glowing of terms” or something like that. “I was wondering if I could come to Montauk and take you out to dinner” I asked. With a thick New York accent she quickly responded “Oh that would be just lovely dear, I know just the place we can go.” We settled on a date and time and I hung up thinking “What a lovely lady.”
Now, if you have ever driven from Manhattan to Montauk (actually closer to England than Manhattan), you will know that it is a real haul, easily a three hour drive and that is when the traffic is reasonable. There are times when the LIE can transform itself into the world’s largest parking lot. However, the traffic cooperated and I arrived right on time, just as it was beginning to get dark.
As I was pulling into a parking spot in front of Eadie’s ground level townhouse, her door opened and out stepped a woman wearing go-go boots (I told you I was old) a mini skirt and short cropped blonde hair. My immediate reaction was “Hmmm, Eadie didn’t tell me we would be joined by another guest.” I got out of the car and walked to the door way and began to say “Hi….I’m John Marshall and I am here to see……” Oops…..I was immediately stopped in my tracks when I suddenly realized that the person standing in front of me was, well, Eadie. In addition to the outfit, she was heavily made up…..false eye lashes, lots of rouge and bright red lipstick. “Oh boy…” I thought.
“Would you like to come in?” she asked. Ah…ah…ah…I mean I was really flustered. But I did, and after about ten minutes of pleasantries I suggested that we depart for dinner. “What’s your worry, we have plenty of time before dinner….I made reservations for 8 and the restaurant is just down the highway” she said with what looked to me to be a sly smile. It was just 6:30. Oh boy.
Somehow, I made it through the next hour, and after much conversation about Eadie and her experiences surviving three husbands….oh boy….we left for the restaurant which actually WAS just down the highway. So we get to the restaurant….a Grange Hall I swear. We enter the place and start to make our way to the dining room which you get to by walking through the bar. Eadie is just ahead of me and as we are walking by the bar, this middle-aged guy catches my eye, and gives me the “thumbs-up” accompanied by a big smile and a chuckle. I looked at him and wanted to say “no no no, this is not what it seems!” As you can imagine I became even more flustered.
After dinner, I drove Eadie back to her home, walked her to the door and was about to bid her my best “ado” when she said “would you like to come in for a nightcap?” Uh-oh….However, I maintained my presence of mind and quickly stated that I had a long drive back to the city and had an early start the next day. “Oh, I would love to Eadie, but I really can’t…. but thank you so much. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit.” “Have a safe drive back, sweetie and say hello to that cutie Russ for me” were her final words delivered with a huge smile. Three and a half hours later I arrived home and immediately made a note that this would be a story I would eventually enter into the book I plan to write – which I am leaning towards naming “The Fun in Fundraising.”
The next morning I saw Russ getting a cup of coffee and simply said “Would you like to come in for a nightcap….A NIGHTCAP!!!” Russ just smiled, took a sip of his coffee and walked off chuckling….much like the guy at the Grange Hall. Thanks Russ, my pal…
Truly, “It’s Not Always What it Seems.”