Be Bold!

Be Bold! That’s the takeaway phrase from my lunch meeting the other day with Dr. Bruce Heilman, Chancellor of the University of Richmond.

E BRUCE HEILMANMy friend Billy Burford arranged the luncheon so we could pick Dr. Heilman’s brain about fundraising. He’s done a lot of it in his career. And we wanted his advice on raising the rest of the money we need to launch Belltower Pictures and produce our first feature film, SHOOTING THE PRODIGAL.

When Dr. Heilman took over as President of the University of Richmond in 1971, the school was on the verge of bankruptcy. He set out to boldly change the course of the institution. And that’s exactly what he’s done over his 43-year association with UR.

Today, with a $2 billion endowment, the University of Richmond is on sound financial ground and is one of the most respected, prestigious institutions of higher learning in the world.

Dr. Heilman told us some of his stories. He talked about meeting with one potential donor and telling him about all the bold new initiatives the university was launching. He said he used the word bold several times in his presentation. When he finished, he asked the donor for $500,000. The man replied, “If it’s so bold, why didn’t you ask for a million?” Dr. Heilman upped his ask… and got what he wanted.

He told about the building program in his early days as president. He said they once started construction on a new building before they actually had all the money in hand. The message sent by that bold move: the University is on the move… building and growing. And the result: more donors jumped on the bandwagon and the funds quickly accumulated.

Dr. Heilman was generous with his guidance. But that two-word piece of advice will stick with me forever. And it applies to more than fundraising…

“Be bold,” he said. “Don’t be reckless or foolish… but be bold.”

Photo: Nikki Waterman/The Collegian
Photo: Nikki Waterman/The Collegian

The advice comes with credibility from a man who, at age 86, rode his Harley Davidson motorcycle solo 8,000 miles, literally around the United States. And next month, at age 88, he’ll set out on his Harley again for a month-long ride from Richmond to Alaska and back.

Be Bold! It’s not just a slogan. It’s a lifestyle.

Don’t give up!

We received another significant financial commitment for the film this morning. Thanks be to God!

This fundraising activity (which must precede the production of the film) is just plain hard! It is requiring me to learn some new skills and to stretch out of my introvert comfort zone.

I think one of the most important lessons I’m learning is: don’t give up. No matter how hard the task, how impossible the odds, how stiff the opposition, how frequent the disappointment. Don’t give up.

Don-Give-Phrase-Blackboard-969190Reminds me of that story Jesus told about the “Shrewd Manager.” It’s always been a little puzzling to me because it sounds like Jesus is affirming dishonest behavior.

The guy gets fired from his job, and then goes around currying favor with his boss’s debtors by doctoring the books and underhandedly erasing some of what they owe. And then what happens? The boss praises the manager for his actions! For cheating! But I don’t think that’s the point Jesus is making.

I think he’s urging us to be alert and creative. The fired manager could have gone into depression, feeling sorry for himself. He could have given up. But he didn’t. And that, I think, is what Jesus is affirming.

Here’s the punchline of the story, as interpreted by Eugene Peterson in “The Message.”

“Now here’s a surprise: The master praised the crooked manager! And why? Because he knew how to look after himself. Streetwise people are smarter in this regard than law–abiding citizens. They are on constant alert, looking for angles, surviving by their wits. I want you to be smart in the same way––but for what is right––using every adversity to stimulate you to creative survival, to concentrate your attention on the bare essentials, so you’ll live, really live, and not complacently just get by on good behavior.” (Luke 16:8-9)

The line jumps out, “be smart in the same way––but for what is right––using every adversity to stimulate you to creative survival…”

Paul says something similar in his letter to the Ephesians:

“Be very careful, then, how you live —not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.
Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” – Ephesians 5:15-17 (MSG)

And Jesus again, in teaching his disciples how to go about their work: “be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” – Matthew 10:16b (NIV)

Be creative, make the most of every opportunity, understand what the Lord’s will is… and Don’t Give Up!