Sustaining the Si Seymour Legacy: Your Call to Action
This is the final article celebrating the career and legacy Si Seymour gave our profession. It serves to provide simple guiding principles that stand the test of time in philanthropy.
For the last several months, we have attempted to capture the “pillars of the practice” that enabled Si Seymour’s legacy to continue today. Hopefully “top down; inside out” resonates with you.
Putting these articles forward has given me a greater appreciation for Seymour’s ability to take his successes and lessons learned in the practice articulating them with thought, candor, and confidence.
It is a testimony to AHP’s early leaders—when AHP was NAHD (National Association for Healthcare Development)—to make the top award of the organization named in honor of Harold J. “Si” Seymour. The first award was made in 1970 to R. Graham Nash
Your call to action is now two-fold.
- Embrace the characteristics that made Seymour’s career a lasting legacy.
- Honor a colleague you know who exhibits these characteristics by nominating them for the Award.
And what are those characteristics?
Delivered results. Seymour’s 50-year career included almost every national charity at the time including raising $321 million for the National War Fund in World War II.
Contributed to the profession’s body of knowledge. Seymour’s “top down; inside out” modernized what Benjamin Franklin espoused in the colonial days when he said, “go first those who may be counted upon to be favorable, who know the cause and believe in it, and ask them to give as generously as possible.”
Seymour articulated “the best prospects are previous donors” and “cultivation is the key to successful solicitation” first formally presented in his book, Designs for Fund-Raising.
He formulated the “rule of thirds” for campaigns with a third of the money coming from the Top 10 gifts; a third of the money from the next 100 gifts; and the final third from the balance of donors.
Embraced the basics while challenging the norm. Seymour knew successful fundraising was rooted in relationships. He is quoted as saying, “every cause. . .needs people more than money. For when people are with you and are giving your cause their attention, interest, confidence, advocacy, and service, financial support should just about take care of itself.”
As observed in my first article, Seymour openly criticized Scott Cutlip for ignoring major gifts. He charged Cutlip with missing this important point. “Cutlip missed altogether the point that the dimes and dollars were ‘sound effects’ for the appeal to larger gifts.”
Envisioned the future. Seymour saw with goals rising higher and higher, more would be expected from fewer donors, “to the point that about 1 percent of the prospect list can make or break any really big campaign.”
And he recognized an emerging philosophy that “money tends to flow to promising programs rather than needy institutions.”
Paying it forward for the next generation. Across his career, Seymour sought to improve the profession, mentoring those coming up and sharing his experience, observations, and knowledge. For those he touched personally and for those he impacted in his writings, Designs for Fund-Raising, we in the profession owed much.
Your call to action—Nominate someone for the Si Seymour Award?
The Award Committee uses six criteria in determining the winner. The candidate should:
- Be a member in good standing, or a representative of a member firm in good standing, who has maintained development professional membership for a minimum of 10 years during their career
- Be a successful fundraiser, demonstrated by documented dollars raised
- Embody the recognized traits of leadership in our profession
- Represent the profession well to other professionals and to the candidate’s community
- Have made continuing contributions to the association by holding office, publishing articles, teaching at conferences, etc.
- Have improved in some way the level of professionalism in the association
What makes up the nomination:
- Three letters of endorsement from those who can speak to one or more aspects of the candidate's qualifications for this award.
- A 400-word statement describing why the nominee merits consideration for the Si Seymour Award, including how the candidate demonstrates leadership traits, how they represent the profession to other professionals and their community, and how they have helped improve the level of professionalism within AHP.
- Information that illustrates the nominee's service to AHP, the profession, community, and their institution
AHP is accepting nominations until May 1st. Begin your nomination here.
This has been a tremendous opportunity for me in composing these three pieces around Si Seymour. To Alice Ayres and Fred Najjar who suggested I do this, thank you for the nudge. To Olivia Hairfield who has been my “wing-person” at AHP, thanks for your encouragement. To George Brakeley III who worked alongside the late Jim Seymour, Si’s nephew, and who knew Si through his own work, your insights and recollections were invaluable. And to Kathleen S. Kelly, author of Effective Fund-Raising Management (1998), and to the late Scott Cutlip and Allen Center, authors of Effective Public Relations (1952) you offered resources more thorough than any library or collection of papers and writings.