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Fundraising Tactic Worked!

MEDIA CONFERENCEDo you remember last December, when I wrote here about Allen & Co., the financial company headed by Herbert Allen, which had decided to give up the naming of the Allen Room, one of three performance spaces at Jazz at Lincoln Center, so JALC could resell it to another donor? Allen gave $10 million for the name “in perpetuity” in 2004, and I guess he figured it was worth more now.

He was right. On Monday, JALC announced that Robert J. Appel, Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Chairman of the Board of Directors, had given $20 million for the naming rights. So the Allen Room will now be called The Appel Room.

This is great news: I would like to see other donors be as creative as Mr. Allen.

For more details, go here, which is the 2014-15 season announcement.




  1. M. F. Sibley says:

    Shouldn’t people with the wherewithal (I.e. lots of money) simply be willing to give money to organizations, museums or what have you without having their names put on rooms or buildings? Where is the philanthropy or charity in giving if the only reason is to perpetuate your name on something? I know if I were in their shoes, I would give freely, with the stipulation being that my identity NEVER be known and if they insisted on a name to be put on something, then it should read, “Anonymous”.

    I guess it all boils down to ego.

    • I don’t know it’s all ego, M.F. …

      I’ve read more than once that many large donors initially want to remain anonymous, but development directors work hard to convince them to attach their names. The fundraising folks evidently insist that having a name attached to a large gift, especially when it involves a name on a building or part of it, inspires others to donate large amounts.

      I don’t know if I buy that, but I’ve seen it reported more than once.

      But I’m with you.Inspiring others to give is not my problem, and getting your name on a venue for an eight-figure gift is a sure way to get every other development director in town to pester you.

      If I were ever in a position to give a gift that size, not only would I insist that my identity never be revealed, I’d ask the recipient to sign a contract stipulating that if they ever do reveal my name, they have to return the gift.

  2. Hi, M.F.,

    In many cases it is pure ego, but it is true that many major donors would prefer to be anonymous. There are a few reasons that revealing donor names can create more donations.

    1. Especially for a new or more experimental nonprofit, if somebody who’s respected in the community for their acumen gives publicly, it’s a public vote of confidence in the organization. That might sway somebody who’s not sure whether the organization is the best investment in their philanthropic contributions.

    2. Stories about major donors often get more PR when there’s a name attached to it than if they’re anonymous (unless there’s some potential drama behind the anonymous gift), which helps increase awareness that the organization is in a fund raising phase. Just like advertising, the more positive mentions, the more positive people feel about an organization.

    3. The “keep up with the Joneses” effect. Especially for charities that have boasting rights attached to them, often educational and cultural ones, some donors give to impress and outshine. On a related note, there are often major donor events, so somebody who wants to rub elbows for a bit with a major donor might consider a gift a great way to namedrop or to make a possible business connection.

  3. David D says:

    M.F. : You would LOVE the story of the band ‘The Residents’… 30 years of great music and to this day, no one knows who they are… As for money and ego, I think ego is what got him the money in the first place. Strong Ego drives people like Mr. Alan, but he counters it with a philanthropic side too… So what can you do, judge him? Without Ego and a corresponding effort, he is another shlub. (However, I assure you, having ego does not automatically make you wealthy, I can attest to that.)

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