Key Takeaways for Fundraisers...
This week my Facebook news feed was bursting with a newly-released movie trailer. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood — starring Tom Hanks — is about the life of Fred Rogers, our favorite childhood TV neighbor.
Watching the trailer led me down the rabbit hole of viewing videos about Mr. Rogers. I came across this video from 1969.
I started making connections to fundraising writing. And it blew me away!
We can learn a lot from Mr. Rogers about how to effectively appeal for funding.
On May 1, 1969, Fred Rogers testified before a U.S. Senate committee... the one that regulates the FCC and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).
The $20 million in federal funding earmarked for the newly-formed CPB was in jeopardy.
The funding was at risk of being slashed in half.
The committee, including Chairman Sen. John Pastore (D-RI), had already spent a couple of long days listening to testimony. This testimony in support of retaining the funding was dry and uninspiring.
Sen. Pastore was not swayed in the least. He was also fed up with people reading from scripts.
Then it was Mr. Roger’s turn to testify.
Sen. Pastore was unfamiliar with him and never had seen Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.
At first, the senator was agitated and a bit hostile when he gave the floor to Mr. Rogers.
Mr. Rogers knew Sen. Pastore was displeased. And while he had a script in hand, he decided to appeal directly to the Senator… human to human.
Mr. Rogers appealed using simple, straightforward language. For a few minutes, Mr. Rogers gave a passionate, heartfelt testimony. He explained the importance of wholesome children's television programming.
And he showed the impact on children's lives:
Sen. Pastore was visibly moved by Mr. Rogers’ words. Within a few moments of testimony, the senator’s demeanor changed from aggravation to admiration.
Goosebumps on a senator seem like a recipe for success, but Mr. Rogers didn’t stop there.
He thanked the senator for his goosebumps and for his interest.
Mr. Rogers amplified the need for quality public children's programming.
To draw a connection between the funding required and the impact it would make, Mr. Rogers asked for permission to recite the lyrics of a song he wrote. The Senator agreed.
Mr. Rogers continued with the song lyrics:
Senator Pastore, visibly moved, replied:
In under 7 minutes, Fred Rogers single-handedly persuaded the powers that be to reinstate the funding.
This testimony became one of the most iconic moments in public television history. Watch the full video here:
Key Takeaways for Fundraisers
Thank you for being a helper. As Fred Rogers’ mother liked to say:
“When there is a tragedy, look for the helpers. Because if you look for the helpers, you’ll know that there is hope.”