Billion Dollar Blow Out

If you had a billion dollars, would you give it all away?

Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates did it and then asked others to do it.

Mark Zuckerberg has pledged to do it.

And one of San Diego's leading philanthropists, T. Denny Sanford, has already donated a billion dollars and pledged to give even more.

In total, 127 of the world's wealthiest individuals and families have signed the infamous giving pledge to dedicate the majority of their wealth to philanthropy.

Sanford's philanthropic philosophy is to "aspire to inspire before you expire." In fact, Mr. Sanford plans to give away all of his money to charities before he passes.

Sanford's latest aspirations led him to team up with National University Chancellor Michael Cunningham, a man who Sanford respects for "his vigor, vitality and direction." Together they created the Sanford Institute of Philanthropy.

Sanford's $1 million gift to National University, California's second-largest private, nonprofit university, comes with a vision: to not only positively influence nonprofits but the leaders that serve these causes. According to Sanford, "there are great schools for philanthropic organization management and administration but we didn't see a school in the market that would specifically support nonprofit fundraisers."

As you can imagine, fundraisers approach Mr. Sanford quite often asking him to support their causes. He probably knows fundraising pitches better than most fundraising staff members. And because of this, he wants to help fundraisers hone their craft in order to better engage philanthropists - like himself - to support very important causes. Through the Center, "nonprofit's frontline people will be taught how to properly and professionally present the cause that they represent to donors and the community."

"There are so many great causes that go unfunded or are poorly funded. I really think this system and methodology at National University will be very, very effective in educating nonprofit fundraising leaders."

Sanford has sage advice for nonprofit professionals. Keep the fundraising pitch focused on the cause and make it as simple to understand as possible. The 'Sanford rule' - as he calls it - is that you must be able to tell your charity's story in a way that your grandmother would understand it in no more than a 10-story elevator ride.

"Oh, and sign up to take workshops and classes at the Sanford Philanthropy Center at National University."

There will be no shortage of students for National University's new nonprofit education offerings with 1.4 million tax-exempt organizations in the United States that represent the 3rd largest workforce among U.S. industries (behind retail and manufacturing) and reported 1.6 trillion in revenues (National Center for Charitable Statistics).

It is Sanford's intent to take this program to other educational institutions throughout the United States because not every nonprofit leader can come to San Diego.

Sanford says that the education offerings will "not be out of a book, they are going to be hands-on." The Center's mission is to effect positive change through the development of nonprofit leaders and teachers through the offering of inspirational and impactful programs that meet 21st century global needs.

The Sanford Education Center officially opened its doors in La Jolla, CA on September 18th. The state-of-the-art-facilities include a lecture hall space, capacity for 150-plus people and integrated video technology where many of the workshops, seminars and classes in the Master of Arts in Cause Leadership will be held.

"In one way shape or form, all nonprofit employees are in the business of raising money. There are no schools nationwide that do a significant job for the people who are on the frontline of nonprofits meeting with donors - until now."