Be kind to gatekeepers

Let’s celebrate the personal secretaries, family foundation staff, attorneys and bank London - Buckingham Palace guardofficers known collectively as “Gatekeepers.”  They play an important and under-appreciated role in the philanthropic ecosystem.  I have a great gatekeeper story from when I worked for The Wilderness Society.  Do you have a story about a successful relationship with a gatekeeper?

Every year. an entity called Canyon Investments sent a check for $5,000.  The return address was a post office box in Chicago. Responsibility was batted back and forth between the foundation team or the corporate sponsorship team.  Once, when I was planning a trip to Chicago, I sent a letter to “Dear sir or madam,” expressing appreciation and inquiring whether a visit would be welcome. I was delighted to get a phone call from an attorney representing Canyon, and inviting me to join him for coffee.  He explained to me that the donor preferred anonymity, and that he would be happy to pass on literature.  He also mentioned that there was some extra money in the account, and that a request for $10,000 would probably be granted.

The gifts grew to $35,000 a year. Every time to flew to Chicago, I visited the attorney.  Every time I saw him, I asked if I could arrange a visit between the donor and the Wilderness Society’s president.  He always smiled and shook his head, and offered to deliver any literature I wanted to leave with him.

When you are looking for a donor and, instead, find yourself face to face with a gatekeeper, take a deep breath, introduce yourself, and thank him or her for being an intermediary.

Please share your gatekeeper stories!