MCCH Donor Wall Long and Owens

Former Murray State University professor and local philanthropist Dr. Bob Long, left, meets with Murray-Calloway County Public Hospital Corporation Board of Trustees Chairman Steve Owens Tuesday morning following the annual unveiling of the hospital's Donor Wall at The Brightside in Murray.

MURRAY — Now in the midst of one of the largest fundraising campaigns it has ever undertaken, The Foundation at Murray-Calloway County Hospital is seeking to show that its pursuit of renovating the hospital’s Regional Cancer Center is one that its community should support. 

One of the best ways for an entity to prove something like this is to show what kind of support it already has. That is, after all, a sign that it already has a solid reputation, and with Tuesday’s 2019 unveiling of the MCCH Donor Wall, it seems that this is the case. 

During Tuesday morning’s dedication event, hospital Chief Philanthropy Officer Keith Travis revealed that 38 new names are now on that wall since last year. Perhaps more importantly, 15 that have previously been on the wall have moved up at least one donor level. The cumulative value of those donations is about $5.3 million.

“We’re at about 8 percent growth from last year and you want to see upward migration and those numbers are encouraging to us,” Travis said.

Currently, the Foundation is spearheading the Enduring Hope Campaign as the primary fundraising driver for the cancer center project, which has a total price tag of more than $12 million. It is believed that if Enduring Hope can raise half of that amount, the project can go forward from there. 

Travis said Enduring Hope was about 10 percent of the way to that goal on Tuesday. 

“All of our committees are in place and functioning, so we’re sowing seeds for what we’re going to try to be doing in the future,” he said. “Major gifts don’t happen overnight, but we are excited about the potential of this campaign and I think people are going to see in January some new rollouts we’re going to be doing that hopefully will come through for us like others we’ve had in the past.”

Travis indicated those would be new ideas, which followed the theme of Tuesday’s guest speaker, 

Tony Watkins, the executive director of the Community Foundation of West Kentucky. Watkins talked about how difficult fundraising can become, sometimes bringing frustration.

He recalled how a few years ago, he scrapped an event that had been one of the top fundraisers in all of western Kentucky, the Fred Paxton Fund Run for Charities, named for Paducah media giant and philanthropist Fred Paxton. That event is now the Fred Paxton Challenge for Charities and it has become even more successful since the change, he said.

“When we started (the Fund Run), there were only three running events in the community. The last year we did it, there were 26. The competition got intense,” Watkins said. “I got to analyzing it and found that we were exhausting all of our sponsorships and energy chasing around folks who weren’t giving us any money. So, one day, I’m driving back from Frankfort and said to myself, ‘Man! We’re missing something!’

“So a short time later, I told everybody, ‘OK, we’re not going to have that event anymore. We’re going to have a celebration because I just don’t think all of the nonprofits (the main beneficiaries of the run) are celebrated enough, so we’re going to invite all of those nonprofits to Walker Hall (an event venue in downtown Paducah) where about 200 or 300 can come.’ You know what we’ve done? Our funds have quadrupled.

“Did I know it was going to succeed? No. It could’ve (fallen) flat on its face, but we were wiling to take a chance and do something different. Now, let me give you an analogy. Two weeks later, they have Barbecue on the River that brings 50,000 people to downtown Paducah and its organizers say that it’s a charitable event. That makes about $425,000 and all of that is given to charities. My event last year made $855,000 with 1,200 donors. 

“They have 50,000 and we have $1,200 and we raised double. What’s the difference? We have repeat donors that give year after year after year and they believe in the event to know where the money is going.”

Watkins preached about the importance of presenting a fundraising campaign to a potential donor while exhibiting energy and enthusiasm for the cause. He then related that principle to the Enduring Hope quest. 

“You know, Keith here could come up to me and say, ‘Well, the hospital needs to raise money again … you wouldn’t want to give to it would ya?’ That excites no one!” he said. “But if he comes up to me and says, ‘You know what? The hospital is trying to raise money and we’re trying to raise money for new cancer services for our community, and if we do, the survival rate will increase by 70 percent! Can I count on you for your support?’ My perception changes then.

“Let me break it down for you … either you believe in you mission, your vision, your project, or you don’t. Nothing sells your mission and your vision and your project like passion. I have conducted hundreds and hundreds of surveys asking potential donors about what do they want to see most in a campaign. Guess what leads the list? Energy! They want someone that comes to call on them that has energy and it excited about what they’re doing.”  

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