Tag Archives: Beverly Robertson

Leadership and Fundraising: No Money No Mission

“…the true leader can be recognized because somehow or other his people consistently turn in superior performances…. A leader is great, not because of his or her power, but because of his or her ability to empower others.  Success without a successor is failure.”  This quote from Robert Townsend was used by Jeanette OBryant, Development Coordinator at the National Civil Rights Museum as she introduced her boss, outgoing museum president Beverly Robertson.

She concluded her remarks with Townsend’s words: “Loyalty to the leader reaches its highest peak when the follower has personally grown through the mentorship of the leader.  Why? Because you win people’s heart by helping them grow personally.”

These words capture the essence of Robertson. She has a strong respect for her staff and has provided them with opportunities to grow and assume leadership. And, she is leaving the museum in a strong position for her successor to build from.

The event we were attending was an intimate breakfast at the newly renovated museum that brought together former board members, volunteers, donors, supporters, staff and community members to hear Robertson’s reflections and tour the museum with her. She began by lifting up current and former staff, board members and volunteers – calling them by name and thanking them for their involvement. She made it clear that her tenure was rooted not the in the status that accompanies her position, but rather in her commitment to the museum and the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Here are qualities we observe in Robertson that contribute to her success as a fundraising leader. She makes everyone she comes in contact with feel good about their interactions with her and their support of the museum. She invites everyone to the table, while keeping her eye on the prize: raising money. She lifts up her staff, encourages them to move beyond what they perceive as their limitations, and provides opportunities for professional growth. She is a “we” not “me” person. Never once have we heard “I raised the money.” She is clear that fundraising is front and center for a nonprofit’s success. She summed it up with “No money, no mission” followed by a warm laugh that embraced the audience. In our words: you can have great ideas, but without money it is very difficult to bring them to life.

Robertson has served as president for 17 years, ending her tenure with the opening of the renovated museum and the beginnings of an endowment. She will be succeeded by Terri Lee Freeman, president of the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region, a public foundation serving the District of Columbia, suburban Maryland and northern Virginia.

We salute Beverly Robertson and we welcome Terri Lee Freeman.

Visit the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis TN.  http://civilrightsmuseum.org/

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com. Follow them on Twitter: @saadshaw.


Museum Fundraising Success

“To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heavens.”  

 Beverly  Robertson, National Civil Rights Museum, Saad and ShawThis is the biblical quote Beverly Robertson, president of the National Civil Rights Museum used to begin our conversation.

She quickly followed with its special relevance to her at this point in time. “I recently announced my retirement from the museum because I believe it is time. On March 1, 2014, the National Civil Rights Museum will re-open the historic Lorraine Motel after an 18 month, $28 million renovation. An additional $12 million is being raised to support the first ever major endowment for the museum to secure the life of the institution. This tremendously challenging accomplishment along with so many other successes and challenges over the past 16 years have led me to realize that I have had my season. It has been an honor to work at this sacred place, but even the best of leaders must know when it is time to go. People who lead understand that they have a season. They also understand that exits are better done when individuals are at the pinnacle of their success.”

The National Civil Rights Museum showcases the history of the African American struggle for civil rights within the context of a global struggle for human rights. It holds a vision for us of a world dedicated to creating opportunity for the disenfranchised.

Located in Memphis, Tennessee at the former Lorraine Hotel – the site of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, – the National Civil Rights Museum has steadily expanded and updated exhibits and curriculum.  Over 3.5 million people have visited since its opening in 1991 – an annual average of 200,000 visitors. It is an educational and cultural site of conscience for visitors from around the world.

Under Robertson’s leadership the museum has stayed focused on fundraising. To date, $25.2 million has been raised for renovations, and $2.2 million for endowment. Robertson has also grown the museum’s annual fundraising which includes direct mail, personal solicitations, and The Freedom Awards, their annual gala. The Freedom Awards, honor individuals who have made significant contributions in civil rights and have laid the foundation for present and future leaders in the battle for human rights. This year awards were presented to Mary Robinson, first female president of Ireland and human rights champion; Geoffrey Canada, CEO and president of Harlem Children’s Zone and a leading advocate for education reform and equality; and Earl Graves, founder and publisher of Black Enterprise Magazine, activist for black consumer and black business power. The event raised over $490,000 and was one of their most successful.

“I have always wanted to leave people and organizations for whom I have worked much better than I found them,” Robertson said. “I can only hope and pray that this is part of the legacy I leave when I depart the National Civil Rights Museum on July 1, 2014.” Beverly Robertson – we salute your leadership.

Learn more about the National Civil Rights Museum at www.civilrightsmuseum.org.

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com. Follow them on Twitter: @saadshaw.