My son, Austin, would tell you that I am more sentimental than most people would think. When he was young he was embarrassed that I cried at the end of Disney’s “That Darn Cat.” I guess not everyone feels the emotional draw of that movie.This weekend I am in Kansas City, my corporate home, and because of years of work here, I have lots of friends in this town. I was watching CSPAN (I dropped that in because we all know intellectuals watch CSPAN in their down time. By the way, have I told you about being at the 20th Anniversary of CSPAN dinner in Washington? I’ll save it for another day, but it is a good story so remind me to tell you.)In this televised CSPAN event, Senator Bob Dole was being honored for his leadership in creating the World War II Memorial in DC. I had been wondering how Bob was doing since I learned a few months ago that he had spent 11 months in the hospital as the result of surgical procedure. He is now home. It was a wonderful ceremony and in my judgment a necessary one, because at 87 I suspect we are not going to have the opportunity to hear the wit and humor of Bob for very long.By the way, he was at his best for the ceremony. I was glad my friend and fraternity brother who is also President of Fort Hays State University, Ed Hammond, was in the small crowd assembled for the event. I felt like Ed was my representative for this occasion.As I was sitting on my couch in Kansas City and shedding a tear while watching this event, my thoughts drifted back to 1978 when I backed another great Kansan against Bob Dole for election to the Senate. I was living in Colby, Kansas on a hill. My neighbor, who owned Kready State Farm Insurance, was a Dole fan and I was a supporter of his opponent. We had wonderful fences that looked upon the city that we adorned with competing signs. I don’t like to lose, but Bob, I am glad my candidate lost that election. I have come back to the flock.I’m sure you are wondering, “why do I read this drivel from Hartsook reflecting on his life? It has no relevance to me or to what I am doing in fundraising.”Not so fast, my friend. You know me better than that. Everything I think about has to do with fundraising.Here’s the nugget: Recognize your supporters while they can appreciate the acknowledgement.I get frustrated at organizations that withhold recognition until it is not useful. I understand there are many sets of values that discourage recognition. There are many fundraising cultures that want recognition to come to people naturally and think donors seek attention. This is simply not true. I have been around a while, and I can tell you I never seen a donor over thanked. I have never seen a benefactor over recognized.But I have seen thousands of nonprofits who wait until someone has passed to pay tribute.I am glad they finally did it, but if you saw the spark in Bob Dole’s face, the energy this man had, the values he exhibited that should be replicated—you would know what I am talking about.My son and I never end a conversation without saying, “I love you.” I noticed the other day that I have developed a habit built of sincerity, of saying to anyone who has helped me—a cab driver, valet, waiter, client, salesperson, bartender (especially) and many others–“I appreciate you.” I don’t know when it started or why, but I am glad I do it, because too often, what is felt is left unsaid.I hope Bob Dole lives for another 100 years. We could certainly use his humor and self deprecation in our current political world. But just in case he doesn’t, those recognizing him last weekend let his light shine brightly through his work on the World War II Memorial.One of the most memorable recognitions came from Elizabeth Dole. Of her husband, she said that for every year he was in the Senate the employees voted him the “Nicest Senator”. I’d take that tribute any day.
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