It is with great sadness I announce that Raise-Funds.com founder Anthony “Tony” Poderis died on October 17, 2017. He was 86. I knew Tony for 47 years. I was a wet-behind-the-ears 25-year-old when I joined the General Electric Lamp Division in 1970 as a GE News editor and met Tony who worked in marketing.
Before the end of that decade Tony was development director at the Cleveland Orchestra and I was in charge of public relations, marketing, membership, and development across the street at The Cleveland Museum of Art. Tony and I would occasionally cross paths during the 1980s and in the middle of the 1990s we began a collaboration that among other things let to Raise-Funds.com.
Tony was a true leader in fundraising and development. He began his fundraising career as a volunteer with Big Brothers in the 1960s, and in 1971 joined the small, but growing ranks of a new nonprofit management discipline that came to be called development. He was a pioneer in formulating the role of the professional development officer. Throughout his long, successful career as a development director and consultant, Tony was guided by one of his favorite statements:
“Fundraising is not rocket science; it’s just hard work on the part of thoroughly prepared people. It’s not magic.”
Tony was always thoroughly prepared as he managed successful campaign after successful campaign for the Cleveland Orchestra. He carried that preparation with him after his retirement from the Orchestra as he consulted with organizations in the U.S., Mexico, and elsewhere. Preparation was the hallmark of the presentations and workshops he gave at home, in other countries, and on cruise ships. No one was better at carrying the message of the role of a development officer and the techniques of fundraising.
In 1996, Tony took that message to an even broader audience with his book It’s a Great Day to Fund-Raise, and soon after with the website he founded, Raise-Funds.com. The book is generally regarded as one of the best on development, and the website’s how-to articles continue to draw thousands of visitors a week.
As experienced, capable, and successful as he was, Tony never lost the sense of humility that helped make him a pro’s pro. For Tony, his successes weren’t about him, they were about the organization and its volunteer leadership. His campaigns succeeded because a lot of good people, did good work, for good causes. He always thought of himself as a facilitator for those people and the work they did. He was that and more. He was their leader.
Forty-seven years is a long time—nearly a half century. There is no one I knew longer and better over the full course of those nearly five decades than Tony. In a sense we grew old together. I will miss Tony.
I’ll miss his sly humor, his strongly held opinions and beliefs, his warmth, his graciousness, his dedication to the nonprofit world and those charged with raising the money to keep the good works going. But most of all I’ll miss the sound of his voice, the twinkle in his eye, and the smile on his face.
My life is all the better for having known Tony Poderis.