August 03, 2011

Thank-You Note Prompts Unexpected Foundation Gift

Many foundations don't accept unsolicited proposals, but sometimes a heart-felt "thank you" can lead them to break that rule.

Martha Hagedorn-Krass, executive director of the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northeast Kansas, in Topeka, didn't expect anything when she sent a thank-you note to the William J. Clinton Foundation after she heard the former president speak at the March conference of the Association of Fundraising Professionals in Chicago.

Martha Hagedorn-Krass, with the $5,000 check. Photo courtesy of the Topeka Capital-Journal.Four months later, an envelope containing a $5,000 check arrived from President Clinton's family foundation. "I was very touched," says Ms. Hagedorn-Krass (shown at left.) "It made my afternoon."

What may have appealed to the Clinton Foundation was Ms. Hagedorn-Krass's enthusiasm about Mr. Clinton's key points: the role of fund raisers and his foundation's work in sustainable energy and energy conservation.

"I thought it was a really nice and a gentlemanly thing to say that he really respects fund raisers and the profession and understands how difficult it is," she says. "He felt that it was more difficult than raising money for political campaigns."

She speculates that someone from the William J. Clinton Foundation forwarded her letter to the Clinton Family Foundation, which issued the check. Ms. Hagedorn-Krass says her letter did not ask for a contribution. Calls and e-mails to both foundations from The Chronicle were not returned.

Below is the first paragraph of the letter Ms. Hagedorn-Krass sent to Mr. Clinton:

I wanted to let you know how much I appreciated your remarks at the closing session of the Association of Fundraising Professionals International Conference on Tuesday, March 22. What particularly resonated were your thoughts and descriptions about the sustainable energy projects at the Empire State Building and the Chicago Mercantile Mart. Our Ronald McDonald House in Topeka, KS is currently raising funds to replace the 24-year-old mechanical systems with 80 to 95 percent energy-efficient systems. In addition, this upgrade will result in a 30-percent savings on utility costs. The project also includes restoration and conservation of masonry features and fire and security systems upgrades.

Ms. Hagedorn-Krass plans to use the $5,000 donation to help retrofit upgrades to the 101- year-old house that the Ronald McDonald House in Topeka has been using for 23 years.

Photograph of Ms. Hagedorn-Krass courtesy of the Topeka Capital-Journal.