Since the late forties professional fund raisers have persuaded Canadians to part cheerfully with at least $350,000,000 — all in good causes, The writer, who helped account for $25,000,000 of it himself, tells how they did it

POWELL SMILY September 23 1961


Since the late forties professional fund raisers have persuaded Canadians to part cheerfully with at least $350,000,000 — all in good causes, The writer, who helped account for $25,000,000 of it himself, tells how they did it

POWELL SMILY September 23 1961


Since the late forties professional fund raisers have persuaded Canadians to part cheerfully with at least $350,000,000 — all in good causes, The writer, who helped account for $25,000,000 of it himself, tells how they did it


IF YOU LIVE IN any major city between Regina and Montreal, or in any of half a dozen towns between the St. Lawrence River and Lake St. Clair, it's possible that during the past ten years my activities have cost you some of your savings. In those years I've had a hand in separating my fellow Canadians from approximately $25,000,000.

Lest this sound as though I'm a member in good standing of the Mafia, or a district director of the underworld Syndicate, let me hasten to assure you that 1 was aided and abetted by judges, lawyers, ministers, priests, millionaires and social leaders in four provinces — plus the entire Montreal police force.

In other words, I was a professional fund raiser. Hospitals, churches, colleges, universities. YMC'As, the Canadian Cancer Society and the Red Cross employed me to help show them how to get money from you, your neighbors. and the businesses and industries in your community.

, In the course of twenty-three campaigns for church or charity, I’ve learned that if you want to make a living out of this kind of work, there are five basic things you must be willing and able to do:

(a) Arrive unannounced and ungreeted in a strange town or city.

(b) Gather to yourself anywhere from fifty to a tnousand men and women, all strangers to you.

(c) Spend up to six months educating them in the art of latching onto other people's liquid assets.

(d) Make them learn to love you.

(e) Make them think that you love them.

You don't, if you aspire to a peaceful and

prosperous career, react to stress and strain as did one campaign director I know. This chap, assigned to a fund raising project sponsored by an educational institution with close church ties, found that he was working with a minister much given to communing with the Eternal. One morning the director, seeking advice on a matter of high policy, found the reverend gentleman deep in meditation.


“For God's sake,” the exasperated director said, “when are you going to stop praying and start working?”

He was jerked off the job next day. He had forgotten the one thing a professional must never forget: that whereas he is being paid to raise money, the volunteers in the campaign are contributing their time and effort with no thought of personal gain.

The only exception to this in my experience was the campaign I directed for La Fraternité des Policiers de Montréal, the Montreal Policemen's Brotherhood. The Brotherhood required $250,000 with which to finance construction of a combined business and social centre. It looked like a shoo-in. The objective was not high; Montreal businessmen and householders could hardly refuse to support the guardians of their security; and I had, so I thought, a ready-made canvassing contingent of 2,200 gendarmes.

But Capt. Jean-Paul Lapointe, the Brotherhood’s president and a complete realist, wasn’t so confident. He strongly suspected that a cop who had just spent eight hours walking a beat wouldn't be in too great a hurry to spend another two or three hours walking around asking for charitable contributions. He was right. Our first call for volunteers met with such unenthusiastic response that the campaign appeared to be coming to a dead stop before it got started.

Capt. Lapointe found the solution. He offered every canvasser a ten percent commission on money collected. Within twenty-four hours of the announcement, we had policemen volunteering to work mornings, afternoons, evenings and lunch hours. Quite a few spent their summer vacations canvassing. The money was raised, and I still have an honorary membership in the policemen’s social centre.

1 can understand why that commission spoke in a louder voice to the cops than mere esprit de corps. Shortly after World War IL I was the unhonored, unsung and unpaid publicity

director of the Ottawa Community Chest campaign, so 1 know what a chore it is to work all evening for charity after you've worked all day earning a living.


Until then, campaigns in Canada had been largely on a do-it-yourself basis, frequently taking the form of tag days. A few professional fund raisers were scattered across the land, but even they confined themselves lor the most part to sending well-worded begging letters to a select list of Special Names, with little or no follow-up by canvassers. In those days every city and many towns had certain wealthy citizens who adopted a charitable institution, underwrote the institution's annual operating deficit, and seldom if ever asked the general public for financial help.

The depression and the war killed this semifeudal system of philanthropy. By the time the mid-forties arrived, a couple of decades of neglect and a prospective population explosion had put the capital needs of charity far beyond the reach of private benevolence. For instance, more than one billion dollars has been spent in Canada on hospital construction since 1950. Such a sum could not possibly have been contributed bv a corporal’s guard of millionaires, however public-spirited.

The hospital building boom was fused and ignited by the federal government, which in 1948 introduced the national health grants. Included in the grants was one for hospital construction. Suppose that the board of governors of a hospital CONTINUED ON PAGE 32


FUND RAISER continued from page 23

Brakeley brought know-how to Canada and stayed to raise more than $250,000,000

wanted to build a new' wing which would increase patient capacity by 100 beds. The federal government was prepared to contribute $2,000 per bed toward construction costs, if an equal amount were given by the provincial government. Thus, the hospital could count on a basic joint gift of $4.000 a bed for its 100-bed addition, or $400,000 in all.

But ten years ago, it cost up to $12,000 a bed to build a hospital or hospital extension. (The figure for large city institutions reaches $17,000 a bed today.) Hence, the bill for that wing came to at least $1,200,000, leaving the tidy total of $800,000 to be secured from sources other than the two governments. The time was ripe for the appearance on the Canadian scene of big-time fund raising.

What we needed, if we were to avoid straight socialism in our approach to the financial problems of health, welfare and education, was someone to show' us how to organize charitable campaigns on such a scale that they reached into every household, every office and every factory.

The man who brought this knowledge to us was George A. Brakeley Jr., then an employee of John Price Jones Company of New York City. Brakeley was sent to Montreal a dozen years ago to direct a campaign for McGill University; he stayed on in Canada to raise more than $250,000,000 for clients all the way from Vancouver Island to Newfoundland. Brakeley did so well in Canada that, with some Canadian associates, he was able to buy the U. S. shares of J. P. Jones in Canada. It became G. A. Brakeley and Company Ltd.

Not long after Brakeley put his feet on Canadian soil and his hand in Canadians’ pockets, a man named Lewis Wells took big-time fund raising to church. Lewis is the son of Herbert Wells (the man credited with inventing the modern method of charity campaigning), and has fund raising

in his blood and brain. He perceived that, as a result of the growing religious feeling in the postwar Christian world, a lot of churches would be built or enlarged.

He formed Wells Organizations, with headquarters in Chicago, and in due course extended his operations into Canada. Since 1952. Wells Organizations of Canada Limited has raised nearly $135,000,000 for just under 1,500 Canadian churches.

I have worked for both Brakeley and Wells (I also had a partnership in a small fund raising company and I have directed campaigns on a free-lance basis) and I know' that the thing both companies brought to fund raising here was meticulous. detailed organization. They saw to it that everyone in a community or a church congregation was tapped, from the millionaire to the mechanic; and that the doctrine of personal approach was thoroughly absorbed by the volunteer canvassers.

There is only one way to achieve maximum results in a fund raising campaign: someone must ask someone else for money. The trick is to make sure that the right person does the asking. You don’t want the millionaire to waste his time canvassing the mechanic; and the mechanic probably wouldn’t know how to get into the millionaire’s office.

The professional team hired to run a major institutional campaign takes no active part in canvassing. Its role, in various ways, is to teach the volunteers the techniques of successful fund raising. The campaign director, therefore, does his best to enlist the wealthiest and most influential persons available as campaign leaders. They in turn enlist other persons, perhaps of lesser wealth and influence, until finally the chain of command is complete, right down to the last canvasser.

Following this formula. I have at various times worked with campaign committees which included the present Governor-General of Canada; the presidents of Canada's

largest banks; Canada’s biggest industrialists; and women whose names consistently appear on the social pages. But I have also directed small-town appeals in which the corner druggist and the wife of a dairy farmer were the keys to success.

Now let's look at a typical mediumsized professional campaign — the one I ran for Peel Memorial Hospital in Brampton, Ont., a town of 17,500 people twentyfive miles west of Toronto. When 1 checked in, I knew' only one person in town. Bill Dooie, editor and publisher of the Brampton Times and Conservator, whom I had met briefly ten years before when I was a newspaperman myself. With his help 1 secured the use of a room measuring fifteen by twenty feet. This was campaign headquarters. Into it I w'edged myself. my secretary, four typists (after I’d spent tw'o w'eeks tracking the girls down and hiring them), desks, chairs, typewriters. file cabinets, two sawhorse tables and a mimeograph machine.

I then saw the right people and got copies of the local hydro subscribers’ list, the industrial commission list, the chamber of.commerce list and the voters’ list. From these, supplemented by the yellow pages of the telephone directory, we made a master list containing the name, address and phone number of every shop, store, office, industry, business and resident in the area. We also prepared a Special Companies list of firms that did business in Brampton but had head offices elsewhere.

$50,000? The doctors were stunned

From the master list, the girls typed three sets of cards for every name — two sets of cross-referred file cards for office and committee use, and a set of pledge cards for eventual distribution to the 400 canvassers I hoped to recruit. While the girls were typing, I took the first step in the recruiting process. Five members of the hospital board had been named to a steering committee, so I asked them to steer me in the right direction.

“To get the campaign off the ground,” I said, “we must have a general chairman— a man who’s well known and well liked.”

"Dick Blain is your man.” I was told.

"How do 1 get to him?”

"Sec Bill Davis.”

So I saw' Bill Davis, a young Brampton lawyer and member of the Ontario Legislature for Peel County.

“I’m told that Magistrate Blain would make a good chairman,” I said.

“He would,” Davis said. “I’ll arrange a luncheon.”

After a little food and a lot of discussion. Magistrate Blain said, “All right. I’ll take it on. But I’d better warn you that a lot will depend on what the hospital medical staff does. The merchants and businessmen won’t w'ant to commit themselves until they know how' much support the doctors are going to give.”

It then became a matter of meeting with the executive of the medical staff. The steering committee had agreed that, although the hospital could finance its building program if $350,000 was raised, we would set an official objective of $500.000. A rule of thumb in successful fund raising is that, if you can get one gift equal to ten percent of the objective, you’re off to a good start; so I asked the doctors to make a collective pledge of $50,000, to be paid over a period of five years.

My request was followed by a stunned silence, then by some spirited argument. At the end of the meeting, one of the doctors took me aside and said, “You’ll never get a contribution like that out of us. It’s away too big.”

I said; “Doctor. I know’ it annoys you to hear it said, but the hospital is your workshop. Without it, most of you would

“We used the wives. Those poor, recalcitrant husbands didn’t have a chance”

The medical staff pledged $40,000 and the businessmen were no longer able to find valid reasons for not volunteering as canvassers. Before long I had eighty men. The next hurdle was Chinguacousy Township, which surrounds Brampton. Reeve Cyril Clark said to me one evening, "How much do you expect to raise in Chinguacousy?”

"You have 3,000 farmers and villagers on your voters’ list, and most of the farms look to be in pretty good shape,” I said. “There are half a dozen companies in the township doing pretty good business. I think a hundred thousand would he a fair figure.”

“Be sensible,” Clark said. “How about fifty thousand?”

“It’s a deal,” I said. "Now find me three hundred canvassers. I don’t like to ask anyone to call on more than ten prospects, especially in a rural area.”

“I've got a better idea,” the reeve said. "Leave it with me.”

A short time later, Chinguacousy municipal council voted an outright grant of $50,000 to the hospital, payable annually over a ten-year period and to he financed through a tax levy. This pleased me, because it was what I had hoped for. I knew that it was a municipal election year, and I suspected that Reeve Clark would like to find some way of publicly supporting the hospital without antagonizing the township voters by making them canvass or be canvassed.

Right about then. 1 ran into a roadblock. In any fund raising effort, most of the money comes from wealthy individuals and large companies. By the time a canvasser calls at your house, you can be sure that about eighty-five percent of the objective of that particular campaign has already been pledged, through advance gifts from those Special Names. High on the list of Special Companies, for obvious reasons, are the chartered banks. When 1 learned that the managers of the five branch hanks in Brampton had decided amongst themselves that each branch would give only $500 to the hospital, 1 was worried.

“You’re away off.” I told one of the managers. 'I want ten times that much. I’ll have to go over your heads."

Brave words, but how was I going to hack them up? What 1 needed, and needed badly, was a man of sufficient stature to get himself listened to at the hanks’ head offices.

f took my problem to Campaign Chairman Blain. "Harry Willis is your man." he said. "I'll get Bill Davis to fix a time for us to see Harry in Toronto.”

Harry Willis agreed to serve as chairman of the Special Companies division, and immediately got in touch with presidents or the chief Toronto executives of the hanks. The result? The hospital received hank gifts totaling $20.000, instead of the $2,500 decided upon by the local managers. Mr. Willis also secured good contributions from the national companies — food chains, shoe chains, department stores, oil companies, insurance companies, breweries, and so on. What does that prove? It proves that if the campaign director can get the right man to do the job. the job will be done well. Harry Willis, a Toronto corporation lawyer, is a member of the inner council of the Progressive Conservative Party.

The next jump on the obstacle course was erected by a prominent local merchant who took pains to tell his friends that he had no intention of giving any support, financial or moral, to the hospital campaign. ft was important to get him on our side, because his opinion was respected. I went to see the gentleman, but might just as well have stayed away.

Then I remembered that he had a teenage daughter attending Brampton High School, and that she was a close friend of the daughter of a hospital hoard member. I spoke to the board member. He spoke to his daughter, and a fewdays later the merchant came to me and said, "My daughter is giving me hell because I’m not on the campaign committee. What do you want me to do?”

There were a handful of other men like that in Brampton, men who, in the words of one of them, “damn w'ell won’t give a plugged nickel to the hospital.” We reached a few' of these through their wives. On institutional campaigns, I always left the residential canvass, the doorbell ringing, to the ladies, and in Brampton. I w'as fortunate in having as co-chairmen of the residential division Mrs. John Davidson, a twenty-five-year member of the hospital board, and Mrs. Nance Horwood, former mayor. Between them, they recruited a women’s committee which ultimately numbered 300.

When it came time to knock on every door, I was careful not to give any lady the pledge card made out in the name of herself and her husband. This meant that Mrs. Jones called for Mrs. Smith’s contribution, and Mrs. Brown called for Mrs. Jones’. You can bet your life that Mrs. Jones made sure that Mr. Jones wrote a cheque of respectable size; the same went

for Mrs. Brown and Mrs. Smith. Those poor, recalcitrant, rebel husbands didn’t have a chance.

While all these side issues were being looked into, 1 was holding weekly meetings with the men’s committee and the women’s committee, and daily meetings with members of the steering committee. I wrote a twelve-page booklet for use in campaign publicity and promotion, another booklet of canvassers' instructions, a weekly bulletin for all canvassers, and regular news releases for the paper and the radio station. I planted stories about the campaign in the Toronto press and, with Bill Doole’s expert collaboration, produced three four-page supplements for the Times and Conservator.

This added up to a sixty-five-hour week for twenty weeks, the length of the campaign. We collected our inside objective of $350,000; the professional fee charged to the hospital w'as $600 a week. I don’t really know how much of this I received personally, because at the time I was in partnership w'ith two other professionals. While 1 was on the campaign, I drew $285 a week. Including expenditures for clerical help, office supplies, publicity, and so on, the campaign cost Peel Memorial Hospital about $18,000. less than five percent of the money raised.

If I have given the impression that successful fund raising involves the use of different kinds of pressure, I have done so deliberately. Very, very few men will give to charity until they are put in a position where they can’t refuse. I was in the office of an industrialist when he threatened to cancel a million-dollar order unless the supplier agreed to contribute to a hospital campaign. I heard a company president give orders that every employee, down to

the newest office boy, was to make a pledge to a campaign in which the president was interested.

In church campaigns (I have directed five) the pressure is particularly great, because usually everything must be done in four weeks. The director is under pressure to make the canvassers raise the money; the canvassers are under pressure to raise it; and the rest of the congregation is under pressure to give till it hurts.

On one campaign in a small Ontario town, the wealthiest member of the congregation had been putting a two-dollar bill in his Sunday envelope. I wanted to raise this offering to twenty dollars weekly, so 1 took the special gifts chairman with me on a visit to the man in question. We arrived at his house shortly after seventhirty in the evening, and we were still there at one-thirty the following morning. For long stretches, half an hour and more, we all sat there in the living room without saying a word.

Finally, about a quarter to two, our host said, “Damn you, Jim, go home, will you? I’ve got to get up and go to work in six hours.”

“So do I, John.”

“Will you settle for fifteen dollars a week?”

“No, John,” the chairman said, “we think you can afford twenty.”

“Oh, give me the blankety-blank pledge card. I'll sign for twenty just to get to bed.”

It was important to get a large pledge from that particular church member, because everyone knew he could afford it and his example would set the pace for the entire congregation. Before I got there, more than fifty of the church families had been giving fifty cents a week or less. When I left, the average pledge was $2.25 a week.

In church campaigns, the women are not asked to do any canvassing. Their activities are confined to serving on the hostess committee, which numbers ten percent, roughly, of the total of church families. The members of the hostess committee take ten families each and extend telephone invitations to the campaign din-

ner. (A printed invitation is also sent by mail.)

The dinner is the focal point of the campaign. A representative assortment of pledges already made is announced to inspire generosity in those who have not yet been canvassed. For example, the minister is always asked to tithe (pledge ten percent of his salary for three years), and since all the church members know the size of the minister’s salary, down to the last penny, his pledge is supposed to be exemplary.

During one church campaign, the hostess committee’s chairman came to me in a panic. 1 had impressed on her that the success of a campaign depends to a large extent on the campaign dinner’s being well

attended, because if it is not well attended, the director has a clear indication that opposition to the campaign is well organized.

“What shall I do?” the hostess chairman asked me. almost in tears. “While we’re telephoning to invite everyone to come to the dinner, Mrs. Arbuthnot (a pseudonym) and some of her friends are phoning everyone telling them all to stay away.”

“We’ve been expecting this,” I said. “The campaign chairman knows what to do. He’s going to call Mrs. Arbuthnot this morning and tell her not to miss the dinner, because she’s going to be presented with a gift in recognition of her long service to the church.”

Mrs. Arbuthnot, her friends and most of the other church families were at the dinner, but. on a couple of other church campaigns, I wasn’t so lucky. In truth, they were out-and-out failures, for the reason that I wasn’t able to overcome the opposition.

This opposition was largely generated by the resentment felt over one of the big fund raising firms’ fee of $1,000 a week. In one of those two churches, a United Church, eleven families went over to the Anglican Church w'hen they heard this firm had been hired.

All church campaigns are one-man-band operations, w'ith the director doing everything but preach the sermons; and campaigns for small hospitals and similar institutions can also be handled by a single professional, at fees ranging from $750 to $1,000 a week, but when it comes to bigcity hospitals and universities, the company tells the client that what is needed is the giant-size package. This would call for the services of a campaign director, an assistant director, a publicity director, a special writer and a list supervisor; and the price tag can run as high as $2,500 a week.

Between them, Wells Organizations and the Brakeley Company have earned an estimated $12,000,000 in fees from Canadian clients during the past twelve years. But lately the big fund raising firms have been shrinking and tightening their belts in the face of tougher and tougher competition conditions.

Wells is now under the jurisdiction of a firm of Toronto lawyers while it is being turned into a non-profit organization and foundation. Wells used to have regional offices right across the country; today, it keeps field representatives in some Canadian cities — but there are no longer any regional offices. The firm’s office space at its Toronto headquarters has shrunk somewhat. Campaign directors have taken second jobs or have left the fund raising business altogether.

What went wrong?

A Presbyterian church officer put it this way: "It costs $4,000 to hire a big fundraising organization for a four-week period. How many dollar bills must a church get in the weekly envelopes to pay for that? That’s why we and the Anglicans and the United Church and the Baptists are using the Sector Plan. We divide the church community up into sectors, the congregation recruits its own canvassers, and some canvassers are assigned to each sector. We don’t need professionals.”

A senior Anglican churchman said, "When one of our churches requires funds to finance a building program, we advise that a professional be hired to organize a campaign. But for the annual congregational canvasses to increase our regular church giving, we think the Sector Plan works well enough. And don’t forget that church construction is definitely slowing down everywhere.”

Hospital fund raisers are feeling the pinch too.

"Hospital business is dead.” said a Brakeley Company executive. “We’ve done

just about all the big campaigns there are to do, and the smaller hospitals don’t want to pay our fees. Something like 115 hospitals in Canada are going to expand, but I can’t see us getting many campaigns out of it. You’ve got to remember that today, federal, provincial and municipal grants take care of all but about fourteen percent of hospital construction costs. Often it simply isn’t worth while for a hospital to pay a fund raising organization twenty or thirty thousand dollars just to get that fourteen percent.

“We think the future is reasonably

bright, but we have got to figure out some way to get through the coming summer. It calls for a bit of belt-tightening. I guess.” Several smaller companies are doing very well. Cathos Limited, established a couple of years ago by former Wells men. is active among Roman Catholic churches, and recently opened an office in England. Another company. Methods Association for Church Finance Limited, also operated primarily by ex-Wells employees, is running campaigns for Protestant churches. Montreal-based Desroches and Power Limited has been successful in the Province of Quebec for

many years. Gilíes Desroches (no Ion with the firm) is a former Montreal ne\ paper editor: R7 Power is the nephew Senator “ChubbyV x*r. a former fedet cabinet minister, Desroches at

Power were once with Price Jones.

To some extent, I thîK^jy orofession; fund raising may be suffcring\¡ri its ow efficiency. Brakeley and Wells x^ved s many people how campaigns shoo * b run that many people now feel the^^y run campaigns for themselves. Whethw, they can run them as successfully, time will tell, if