Thanks to dream team of 'connectors,' Kroc Center will be a reality

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Something very important happened at a luncheon Nov. 4 that everyone in the CSRA should salute and celebrate.

Boone Knox received special praise for leading a fund-raising campaign that was massively, amazingly and awesomely successful. At the event where it was announced that the Kroc Center project had overshot its goal by more than $2 million, Boone received a standing ovation that continued for many minutes.

Maj. Bill Mockabee, who is the divisional commander of the Salvation Army, and Capt. Todd Mason, our local Salvation Army commander, made stirring remarks that touched the audience. There were many tears of joy.

Boone's leadership of the Kroc Center campaign is only one small part of his life of caring and giving. He was deeply involved in the successful campaign to raise funds for the soon-to-be-built Fisher House. This 20-suite facility will provide free housing for family members of wounded warriors and other veterans who are going through long-term, in-patient rehabilitation in the CSRA.

Incidentally, groundbreaking for the new Fisher House will be at 10 a.m. Dec. 9. The ground has been prepared on the perfect site next to the uptown VA hospital and near the bus stop on Wrightsboro Road.

In the bestselling book The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell identifies individuals whom he describes as "connectors." People who are connectors have the uncanny ability to stay in close contact with a very large number of people.

BUT THIS SKILL IS more than just being well-connected with folks. Connectors stay in touch with people who know how to get things done -- done well and done fast. When connectors ask for help, they usually get it since their friends and contacts hold these connectors in high regard. Boone Knox is a world-class connector, and the CSRA has benefited greatly from this skill.

When Boone accepted the heavy responsibility of leading the Kroc Center Capital Campaign, he contacted Pete Caye. Pete (also a first-class connector) then signed up a bunch of others using the motto "We got to get this done." Other connectors whom Boone contacted were his cousin, Wyck Knox; Jim Hull; Norman Schaffer; Clay Boardman; Nick Evans; Brent Smith; and many others.

Let me give a personal example of the power and influence of connectors: A few months ago, I visited Jim Hull in his office to ask him to lend financial support to the annual autumn Boy Scout fund-raiser. He immediately agreed to help me, and wrote out a check to the Boy Scouts. But before I could get out the door, he had signed me up to help raise funds for the Kroc Center. His enthusiasm was so infectious that I just couldn't say no.

There will be many fund-raising activities in the years ahead. We can learn some lessons from the Fisher House and Kroc Center capital campaigns.

First: Put together a dream team -- a group of energetic people who are deeply committed to the project. Second: Do the research to find out where the money is -- in corporations, foundations, in trusts and among individuals. Third: Identify and approach those who have a history of generosity. Fourth: Ask for really big numbers (the Jerold Panas book Mega Gifts should be required reading for every member of your dream team).

FIFTH: REACH OUTSIDE the CSRA -- Boone was especially successful in this vital area. Sixth: Develop a public-relations campaign that is attractive, visible, aggressive and persistent. Seventh: Thank donors with handwritten notes. Eighth: Send these notes out within a week of receiving a gift or a pledge (the Salvation Army has established the CSRA's gold standard as far as thanking people).

These techniques can profoundly improve the chances that a project will be fully supported and funded. They can even take it over the top.

Here is some late news on the construction of the Kroc Center. The Salvation Army, working closely with the Kroc Trust, has decided that the groundbreaking will be in February. As you might imagine, the board members of the Kroc Trust are absolutely delighted with the news of the CSRA exceeding our goal, and are committed to make their full contribution.

The total cost of the project is about $100 million. With a very large endowment included as part of the package, the Kroc Center will be self-sustaining for the years and decades ahead. In round numbers, the building will cost about $34 million, while the endowment will be about $66 million.

The next time you see Boone Knox be sure to pat him on the back or give him a hug, and thank him for his extraordinary leadership in putting together a dream team together and guiding them to such great success. Over the course of the next century, the Kroc Center will affect the lives of hundreds of thousands of individuals and families. It will be their joy; it will be Boone Knox's legacy.

(The writer, a retired U.S. Air Force major general, is the secretary of the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation.)

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