Those who know me understand my profound respect and admiration for Amway founder Rich DeVos. He and wife, Helen, became very dear friends in the last decade or so of their lives. Their impact on my life is incalculable. Rich’s fundraising advice forever changed my professional trajectory.
Despite reaching billionaire status after building an internationally known brand, Rich never lost his ability to communicate in the simplest of terms. He was a diligent student – always questioning, always observing, and listening intently. Rich understood the ability to sow knowledge into the lives of others came from first allowing them to be heard. Observing my fundraising career and a big upcoming project, Rich gave me the greatest piece of advice …
“Ben, when you need to raise big money, you don’t spend time talking to people who don’t have big money!”
While this advice is rather elementary in the profession, it is also profound. It gets to the heart of the matter through a simplification understood by all. It is somewhat akin to how the country preacher can provide a nugget of knowledge in one sentence, while the scholarly theologian needs an hour. Rich’s words were always concise, to the point, and easily understood – with the complexities of excess words removed, and the call-to-action front and center. One of the reasons Rich understood the words he shared is the fact that he raised countless dollars for incredible projects. He called upon family, friends, corporations, and foundations on behalf of great causes promising to change the world. Rich was not afraid to ask and certainly understood the importance of asking the right people for support.
I have never forgotten Rich’s words. With every fundraising campaign, Rich’s wisdom defines my money-raising strategy. Thank you, Rich!