In January of last year, I had a pivotal phone conversation with Margaret Bergan Davis, long-time friend of RH and member of the Advisory Committee. I can trace two successful ideas to this conversation: the formation of the RH Circle, and the creation of a challenge grant for the under-40 demographic that makes up a large percentage of our audience. If you have ever had a good idea that you’re not quite sure you can pull off, you may understand the physical response I had: elevated heart rate, huge butterflies (bats?) in my stomach, and that conviction: “I’m not sure we can do this, but BOY, if it works, it will be so cool!”

Thank goodness the 2008 Rush Hour Under-40 challenge match was an outstanding success!

So, because many of you have asked: here are the statistics! Overall, we had 41 donors in the age group. Approximately 78 percent of these were new donors to RH.

RH also had an increase in the number of overall donors: a 26% increase in the number of donors (186 to 234). It is safe to say that the 32 new under-40 donors account for the bulk of this increase.

These numbers excite me for two very important reasons: we know that this year, 17.5% of our donors were under 40, which correlates nicely with the fact that 20% of our audience (on average) was this age. We accomplished the most important part of the goal, which was stimulating ownership of the series from a significant and previously non-sustaining group.

But there’s more wonderful news: I’ve already received RH Circle pledges for this year from 2 of the under-40 group (that’s 5%). Those pledges constitute 100% increases from their 2008 gifts. Others have pledged their support of RH again in a variety of different ways.

Thomas Merton said, “If you have love, you will do all things well.” And that, my friends, is my final point about this challenge grant. In the world of fundraising, challenge grants are a marvelous tool: they create an impetus and extra motivation to action for a group that has good intentions and the desire to give but need that extra push, whatever it is. But this challenge also tapped into the love of RH that so many have and created an esprit de corps that I did not expect.

I decided back in October or November when we were hovering around the $3,700 mark that the under-40 challenge would succeed even if I personally shook the tin cup under the noses of my friends and family members or wrote the final check myself. I was blown away by the number of similar-thinking individuals, some of whom wrote a final check during December, and some of whom came to me and said, “If there is less than $5,000 when the money’s counted, I will make up the difference.”

This challenge turned into a personal journey for many of us, and I sincerely thank all of you who shared your love and resources to help raise $5,163 for this challenge. We hope we can count on your support again in 2009.

– Megan Balderston
Executive Director

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