I just heard the sad news that Jerold Panas died.
He was closing in on his 90th birthday, and if anybody has lived a full and wonderful life, it was him. Honestly, if I live as long and accomplish half as much, I sure won't be complaining when it's my time to go.
Still. It sucks that he's gone.
He wrote a lot of great books about fundraising. The "classic" of the bunch was Asking, which is said to be the all-time best-selling book on fundraising. For good reason. If you haven't read it, get a copy right now. It is truly transformative.
In fact, go to Jerry's author page on Amazon and see the riches that await you. Really.
I count it an honor to have been acquainted with Mr. Panas. I corresponded with him for several years, and he was always quick with an answer to anything I asked. Solid, real-world advice, tinged with a wisdom that demonstrated not only experience, but true heart. Fundraising was not just a business to him. It was a life.
When my most recent book was getting ready to go to press, I asked Jerry to write a blurb that I could include on the cover. "Of course!" he said. And promptly sent not a short paragraph of hype, but a thoughtful essay about the manuscript. It became the foreword of the book.
I only met him in person once, about three years ago. It was at an all-day meeting with a client we shared. It was a challenging client, and a difficult meeting. Revenue was down. There was a new leader, along with the general turnover of staff that often accompanies a change. A lot of opinionated people were around the table.
It was the kind of meeting where at lunch time, you're utterly drained from the sustained effort of it ... and you're only half-way there. People are angry, pushing agendas, jockeying for power. Saying a lot of uninformed things with great passion.
And Jerold Panas sat there, mostly quietly, smiling. A handful of times he spoke up, his voice utterly clear and brought the meeting back from the brink of chaos, gently reminding us why we were there in the first place, speaking up for the donors and for the cause.
He was already in his later 80s, an age when most people are two decades into retirement. And he quietly worked the room without dominating it, making everyone feel calmer, more empowered, and more full of hope.
He did that for hundreds of organizations through the years. I don't know if it's possible to measure his impact on our crazy industry through his meetings alone, but I'm pretty confident we would all be in a slightly worse place than we are if he hadn't been there.
Not to mention his many books, workshops, and other ways he has influenced us all.
If you want to honor Mr. Panas and his contributions to fundraising, be a much like him as you can be.
Be kind. Be calm. Be helpful. Focus on what matters, and give of yourself. I think he'll be watching you and heartily approve.
August 9, 1928 - July 14, 2018
Αἰωνία ἡ μνήμη!