You Can Do It, Too! Capital Campaigning Is Great Fun

by Jim and Sharon Omvig

From the Editor: Jim and Sharon Omvig were friends and colleagues of Dr. Jernigan for many years. Now they are dedicated capital campaign volunteers. Here they reflect on what they have learned about campaigning during the past several months. This is what they say:

I am what I have often referred to as "one of the lucky ones." Having been born in the right place at the right time, I had the privilege of being one of Dr. Kenneth Jernigan's early students--in 1961. From that time until his death, we were more than teacher and student: we were colleagues in a movement.

Sharon, too, became a committed member of the cause, but by a different entry path from mine. She went to work for Dr. Jernigan in 1964.

Through the years one of the great joys in our lives was simply being in his presence and observing and marveling at his dreaming, planning, designing, and building. It is fair to say that, if he really wanted something to happen, it did. He made it happen!

Although we now live some distance from Baltimore, throughout the last year and a half of his life, we saw Dr. Jernigan as often as we could. Even in that time of sadness seeing him yet again dreaming and planning and designing brought the same old feelings of joy and wonder. We will never forget the delight he got from showing us each and every detail of the model of the new National Center facility.

Who can say whether this time he knew that he would not personally be able to complete the project by overseeing the actual construction himself but that, for this final dream, he would rely upon us to finish it. What we do know for an absolute certainty is that he did intend one way or another to complete the project.

I wish that the Omvigs could say proudly that immediately after the 1999 Atlanta convention we rolled up our sleeves, took up the challenge, and went to work on the campaign; but I can't. Because of pending surgery and several prior commitments, we did not get started in the fall of 1999.

Family illness and two deaths took us to Iowa for the winter, so we got started there. It's surprising. Once you make a commitment to yourself and begin seriously to work for the campaign, an amazing transformation occurs. All at once what seemed difficult and terribly time-consuming becomes challenging and inspiring--it becomes fun.

For purposes of this article we would like to talk about three aspects of our work. First, (that is, after you are armed with accurate information about the new building), where do you get the names of people to approach? We have found that the best way to develop lots of possibilities is through some brainstorming. I can't tell you how many conversations I have had with Ramona Walhof. Every time we talk I think of new possibilities: "Oh, Mrs. Walhof, did I ever tell you I grew up with a boy from Roland, Iowa, who went on to become an All American basketball player. He does TV now, and he owns an oil business."

Conversations like this with Mrs. Walhof, Dr. Maurer, Mrs. Jernigan, Mr. Connelly, or local chapter members lengthens the Omvigs' list every time. It is astonishing to realize the great number of people you know or at least people with whom you have significant ties when you really think about it.

The second issue we would like to touch upon has to do with dear family members or very close personal friends. Should we approach them about giving? We wrestled briefly with this question ourselves, and we decided of course we do! We love them, and they love us. They already know that the NFB is central to our lives--it literally changed my (Jim's) life--and, because of this knowledge, they have great regard for the work of the NFB. Rather than being insulted by our asking, they would be more likely to be insulted if we did not ask.

So naturally we have approached lots of family members and friends, and we'll approach many more. Some will want to give and are able to do it, and others will want to give but can't, at least right now. What is important is that we ask.

The third thing we want to touch upon briefly is that dreaded outcome, disappointment. How do you handle that? Do you simply throw in the towel and quit when someone whom you counted on turns you down? Of course you do not quit. You simply move on. Lest you think that disappointing outcomes will happen only to you, not to the Omvigs, let me set the record straight. That very thing happened to us in Des Moines. Longtime friends said, "No."

While it was disappointing, we heeded our own advice and moved on. We contacted other friends and went to visit with them, and we were successful in getting four people to make generous pledges. It just may be that, upon reflection in the future, the friends who turned us down will reconsider their decision and join with us in this exciting effort. We certainly hope so.

These, then, are a few thoughts we want to share with you. We are committed, enthusiastic, and determined; and we do not intend to let Dr. Jernigan down. We hope you'll all join with us to turn his final dream, the National Research and Training Institute, into a spectacular reality.