An Honest Discussion of Strengths
Helps Ore. University Win Big Gift
By Caroline Bermudez
WHEN ONE of Oregon’s major public universities received a request from a lawyer to
outline smart ways the institution
could promote nutrition and wellness if
it got money from a new benefactor, it
was not much of a mystery where the
money might be coming from. Officials
at the Oregon Health & Science University Foundation easily guessed the
donors were Bob and Charlee Moore.
After all, not many people who live in
and around Portland, Ore., have made
a fortune from natural foods.
They also knew that the Moores,
founders of Bob’s Red Mill Natural
Foods, had donated at least $1-million
to two other local colleges for programs
on nutrition and healthy eating. It was
clear from the donors’ lawyer that his
clients were considering giving a very
large sum. But rather than pulling out
bells and whistles, Allan Price, president of the OHSU Foundation, says
simple honesty was the best approach
to securing what turned out to be a
He and his staff put together what
he calls a “statement of strengths,” a
12-page document that focused on the
university’s myriad efforts related to
nutrition and well-being: its efforts to
educate people on healthy eating, an
academic program that studies how
pregnant women’s nutrition affects the
health and development of their chil-
dren, and a childhood obesity clinic, as
well as the natural-foods store at the
university’s hospital and the farmers’
market that it operates on its campus
in the summer.
Sure enough, Mr. Moore showed up
for the tour. He met faculty members
and listened to scholars holding a public discussion of their research on nutrition and pregnancy.
After three more follow-up meetings,
the Moores invited university officials
to tour their company plant. Mr. Moore
then asked them to work out with his
lawyer how big a gift they needed.
The pledge, which established the
Bob and Charlee Moore Institute
for Nutrition and Wellness, was an-
Er ic Gr iswol d
Bob and Charlee Moore, founders of a natural-foods company, pledged
$25-million to establish a nutrition and wellness institute.
nounced in September to coincide with
the university’s hosting of the World
Congress on Developmental Origins of
Health and Disease.
Sincerity pays off, says Mr. Price.
“Really focusing on the substance,
and trying to make sure there’s good
alignment between the donor’s inter-
est and the institution’s strength, and
be authentic about that connection,”
he advises other fundraisers seeking
large donations. “You can’t make that
up, and if you try, it doesn’t end up
working out very well.”
The highlight of the whole endeavor
came after Mr. Moore committed the
Community Foundation Uses Western Flair to Land Large Contribution
By Raymund Flandez
ALEATHER-BOUND BOOK helped se- cure a $25-million gift last year by Paul and Donna (Muffy)
Christen to the South Dakota Community Foundation. It didn’t hurt that the
foundation also branded the book—
which laid out the nonprofit’s case for
support—with the logo of the Paul and
Muffy Christen Legacy Fund.
“It has its own style, and that’s very
fitting for the Christens,” says Bob
The Christens have made gifts and
helped run the organization since it
was started 25 years ago. Mr. Christen
was the foundation’s first chairman,
heading the board for 10 years. Then,
some years later, his wife became a
“If we didn’t know them as well as
we did, none of this would have happened,” Mr. Sutton says.
The South Dakota Community
Foundation created a Western-style proposal book, bound in
leather with a brass plate, to help
secure a $25-million bequest from
Paul and Donna (Muffy) Christen.
‘A Little Shocked’
The Christens reached the foundation’s top tier of donors in a short time,
which prompted officials to strategize
their request for a significant estate
gift. For six months, Mr. Sutton and
his staff, along with a marketing firm,
worked to put together a proposal that
would wow the couple.
The staff knew the Christens liked
the outdoorsy, ranch-culture scene,
and they had a real knack for Western
elegance, a style replete with wood and
big-stone fireplaces. That theme carried over to the First Western Bank,
which the Christens founded and sold
in 2008. So organizers used that inspi-
ration in the proposal book, which now
had a leather binding, a logo, heavy
paper, and a brass plate.
Next, Mr. Sutton set up an appointment to visit the Christens. An hour
into brunch, he gave them the presentation on what a $20-million bequest
could do for the foundation, now and
in the future. The proposal had three
parts: an unrestricted grant program,
a matching challenge for local groups
that raise a certain amount, and a
fund set aside for a few groups that the
Christens will personally select.
“They were not taken aback,”
Mr. Sutton says. “They were a little
shocked, but they appreciated it.”
A ‘Racing’ Heart
After a couple of tweaks, the Christens pledged to give the full amount.
By late that summer, almost all the
paperwork had been finalized, the
That’s when Mr. Sutton received
a call from Mr. Christen. “My heart
started racing, sweat was pouring out
of my head,” Mr. Sutton recalled. He
thought the donors were going to back
out and reduce their promised pledge.