November: A Bitter Month

December 15, 2005       Craig Causer      

The nonprofit management and fundraising worlds were rocked during November as three of the sector’s influential leaders died. Management guru Peter Drucker, fundraising legend Don Kuhn and database fundraiser pioneer Andrew E. Svenson all left their marks on the nonprofit and for-profit worlds.

Drucker, revered in both the nonprofit and for-profit sectors as the father of modern management, died Nov.11, eight days shy of his 96th birthday. He died of natural causes at his home in Claremont, Calif.

Drucker, a winner of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, was considered not only a leader in his field, but a visionary. “There is a magic about (Peter Drucker),” said Frances Hesselbein, chairman of the board of governors, Leader to Leader Institute, formerly the Peter F. Drucker Foundation for Nonprofit Management. “During the last 100 years, when you look at who were the great heroes, the great visionaries, I think Peter Drucker will be one of them.”

Hesselbein in 1990 co-founded the Drucker Foundation. Her inspiration for the foundation, as she recalled it, occurred the day she met Drucker. Standing before the national board and staff of the Girl Scouts of the USA, Drucker in 1981 did the unexpected. According to Hesselbein, then-CEO of the Girl Scouts, “Here was a group of remarkable people who had transformed the organization. I’m sure they expected (Drucker) to say something about how they had moved into the future, and membership had increased, diversity, inclusion, cohesion, highly contemporary programs, heavy on math, science, technology. But Peter, after thanking them for permitting him to be with us, said, ‘You do not see yourselves as life-size. You do not appreciate the significance of the work you do. For we live in a society that pretends to care for its children, and it does not.’”

Drucker authored 35 books dealing with management, including the landmark books The Practice of Management and The Effective Executive; society, economics, and politics; 2 are novels; and 1 is a collection of autobiographical essays.  His most recent book, Managing in the Next Society, was published in fall 2002.

In a seminal article he wrote for the Harvard Business Review in July, 1989, titled What Business Can Learn From Nonprofits, Drucker shocked both sectors with his assertion that the best managed nonprofits are better managed than the best managed corporations. According to Hesselbein, “some people thought (the title) had to be a typo.”

The article garnered much attention for a concept Drucker had been pushing for years. “Peter had come to understand that people working in nonprofit organizations were much more resourceful, much more creative because of the circumstances under which they were working than people who worked in the corporate world,” said Eugene R. Tempel, Ph. D., executive director of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. “And that’s kind of what got the nation’s attention focused on the management of nonprofit organizations.”

 

Donald M. Kuhn

A legend in direct response fundraising, Kuhn died suddenly at his time-share condominium in Vail, Colo. He was 83. Kuhn began his direct response career in the early 1950s as a copywriter at Sears, Roebuck & Co. He soon entered the nonprofit ranks when he joined the National Tuberculosis Society (later to become the American Lung Association). He worked at the ALA for 30 years, eventually becoming national director of development.

As director of development, he oversaw the conversion of 14 million donor records from metal plates and 3×5 index cards to a computerized database. The database identified donor behavior using thousands of coding variations, allowing for targeted communication and segmentation, according to Larry May, CEO of Direct Media and May Development Services, in Greenwich, Conn., where Kuhn was still an active special consultant. “He will be missed by his many friends and colleagues,” said May.

“Don was a pioneer in the area of database development and management,” said Joe Bergen, chief operating officer at the ALA in New York City. “I remember him in Michigan ( ALA) where he was the director of fundraising. He introduced what amounted to data processing there. He came to national where he integrated computers into direct mail fundraising and modernized the whole organization.”

Kuhn joined direct response firm Walter Karl, Inc. in the early 1980s and launched its fundraising division. His clients included Easter Seals, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, American Red Cross, March of Dimes and the Arthritis Foundation.

Kuhn was a pioneer in direct mail, doing during the 1960s what more prominent people were bragging about in the 1980s, such as personalization and segmentation techniques, and effective use of the computer for fundraising, said Chris Cleghorn, executive vice president, direct and interactive marketing at Easter Seals in Chicago.

Cleghorn knew Kuhn both personally and professionally for more than 20 years, first workedwith him in 1980 as he was developing a fundraising division at Walter Karl. Cleghorn was five years into a career in list management and list brokerage, working with commercial clients.

“In that first year of working with Don I got the dual bug of a passion about direct response fundraising and the nonprofit world,” Cleghorn recalled.  “After working with him for over three years I had the opportunity to come to Easter Seals and do there what Don had done years before at the American Lung Association. Part of Don’s counsel then as I left him was to continue focusing on the lifetime value of donors and seek to integrate all of fundraising into a comprehensive approach.”

In 1991, Don became the second recipient of the Direct Marketing Association Fundraising Achievement Award. He was still active at the time of his death as a consultant with May Development Services.

 

Andrew E. Svenson, Jr.

Svenson, 66, was a direct marketing professional, entrepreneur, Bible scholar, world traveler, vintage car collector, and sailing enthusiast. He died in Montgomery, Ala., after an extended illness.

Most recently he was development director for the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery. He was involved in fundraising and membership development for Christian ministries and other nonprofits, as well as in retail and direct marketing for Christian publishers, such as Thomas Nelson Publishers, the Christian Herald Association, and Visions of Faith.

During his 40-year career, Svenson held senior marketing positions with Cornell University Press, Weekly Reader Children’s Book Club, Meredith Corporation, and Fuller & Dees Marketing Group. In 1978, Svenson launched a consulting business, Andrew Svenson Company, Inc., in Sarasota, Fla. Dozens of major book and magazine publishers in North America and Europe enlisted Svenson’s expertise for mail order and book club consultation, strategic planning, and new business development. In addition to his consulting work, he also owned Things of Science, a monthly membership club offering scientific experiment kits to budding 10 to 16-year-old science enthusiasts. DRFE