Cover Story: Worth The Gamble
The NVCI’s initial fundraising phase extended until very recently and, as of October, the organization had received 40 gifts of $1 million and up from donors named by the organization as its “Founders,” and three more gifts of $5 million or more from its “Visionary Founders.”
Tapping the business vein
The first corporation the NVCI approached was casino company Harrah’s Entertainment. In the same way that Gitomer and Murren approached their individual donors, they asked Harrah’s to be a leader and focused their initial approach on two Harrah’s executives who had had public bouts with cancer.
Like other potential donors, Harrah’s struggled with the economic practicality of adding another major charitable cause into its giving program. The solution, Gitomer says, was giving founding donors the option to give the $1 million gift all at once or over a few years. Harrah’s opted for the multi-year giving effort; over five years, the company would match employee donations to a total of $1 million.
“Although multi-year giving is not a new concept, it was relatively unused in Las Vegas, except by the university,” Gitomer says. “So far, every year Harrah’s has matched employee gifts dollar for dollar, and we’re right on schedule.”
Once Harrah’s was on board, it made it easier for Gitomer and Murren to approach others. Says Gitomer: “This was the same strategy we used with individuals. We said, ‘Harrah’s joined us. Don’t you want to?’’’
After Harrah’s came Boyd Gaming/Boyd Foundation, Caesars Entertainment and MGM Mirage. Support from foundations came later, as private foundations usually require that a nonprofit be in business for at least five years.
“We were very careful to mine the field for a few foundations we thought we qualified for,” Gitomer says. Several foundations have lent their support to the NVCI.
Through the early part of the campaign, two things surprised Gitomer, a seasoned fundraiser with more than 20 years’ experience. First, the success: “I thought we could be successful, but we’re even more successful than I thought. The first month I was here and was getting the lay of the land, I wondered how this was going to happen. How were we going to raise this amount of money? And how were we going to recruit the caliber of people we needed to recruit? But both of those efforts have been overwhelmingly successful.”