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Mr. Cameron Has Something to Tell You

William John Cameron (1879-1953) really lived the kind of life you would expect in an adventure novel or a Hollywood movie. We want to establish that to begin with, to counter any idea that he’s famous just for coming up with colorful aphorisms.

The son of Manitoba pioneers, “W.J.” Cameron was one of 13 children in his family, and he is said to have once walked barefoot from Gladstone in Manitoba to Bottineau, North Dakota – a distance of approximately 100 miles – to go to work on his uncle’s farm.

Later he founded a successful surgical equipment supply house in Chicago, and later still achieved fame as a big game hunter. He a chiefly remembered for exploring the Kalahari Desert in Africa and studying its people.

But it’s undeniable that Mr. Cameron is also remembered for his pithy sayings.

We found a couple of his zingers that are particularly pertinent to fundraisers, and we think they’ll be helpful to have in the back of your mind when things aren’t ducky, when the challenges are coming thick and fast, and a little ground truth is in order to keep you focused.

First:

  • “Money never starts an idea; it is the idea that starts the money.”

We like this one because it reasserts the dominance of good, old fashioned brain work. Sure it’s hard to come up with good ideas, but that’s why you get a paycheck for doing it. Plus, it reminds us that throwing money at a problem never solved it. So it follows that having to work within a tight budget is only as limiting as you make it, because putting on your thinking cap is always free.

Next:

  • “Thanksgiving, after all, is a word of action.”

What Mr. Cameron means, of course, is that Thanksgiving is more than a federal holiday – it’s a way of life. More importantly, it’s an active way of life. From our perspective as fundraisers, the concept of giving thanks animates not only the donors who choose to make gifts, but also the response of good nonprofit professionals who thank, respect, and recognize the donors in return. And it’s also the response of the folks on the receiving end of the good works enabled by the gift (the charity’s mission).

You might say that our vocation is thanksgiving in action throughout the year.

Tomorrow is a day dedicated to its celebration.

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