Because I have collected jokes and anecdotes for my 25+ years in business, I thought I would share some of them here with you. I’ve tried to adapt these to the fundraising world as I can so that if you wish you can steal (er, um, borrow with attribution) them for speeches, presentations or the like. Here goes…

Three Envelopes

A new manager came in to replace one who had had difficulties and was summarily fired. The new manager, on his first day of work, looked through the desk drawers of the former manager and found 3 envelopes with a post-it note on top saying, “In case of difficulties with your new job, open one of these letters.” And the envelopes had #1, #2 and #3 on the front of each. The new manager left them in the drawer.

After about 9 months on the job, things started going south. His department wasn’t as productive as his boss expected and he would routinely going over budget. He remembered the envelopes and opened #1. Inside was a sheet of paper which said, “Blame your predecessor.”  He though about his situation and shared with his boss, “that guy that was here before me really under budgeted our projects, claimed that he could get things done that no team could accomplish in the time he estimated, and …”

The managers boss cut him some slack and gave him 6 months to clean up the problems. And the new manager reviewed project estimates, budgets and plans.  He got things back on track for a couple years, when they started going down the tubes again. He remembered the envelopes; #2 said, “Blame your subordinates.”

He uses that excuse and is given leeway to fire and hire several employees.  Work picks up, deadlines are hit, budgets are met… for another two or three years.  As they are going south again, the manager thinks about envelope #3.  The first two had brought him along well, but it’s the last one. He hesitates and tries to fix things. Eventually it’s time to view envelope #3; it says, “Prepare 3 envelopes.”

If you aren’t provided three envelopes, maybe you should learn to plan on your own.


Antersen - Miracle

Then a Miracle Occurs

I got this cartoon while I worked for Arthur Andersen’s consulting group. It was created by a client programmer (who called us all Antworth.)

He created a number of other cartoons poking fun at us, but this was the only one I still have. And it’s available on the Internet.

 Unfortunately entirely too many system installations depend on “then a miracle occurs.”

The Rich Lawyer

A local United Way office realized that the organization had never received a donation from the town’s most successful lawyer. The person in charge of philanthropy called on him to persuade him to contribute.

“Our research shows that out of a yearly income of at least $500,000, you give not a penny to charity. Wouldn’t you like to give back to the community in some way?”

The lawyer mulled this over for a moment and replied, “First, did your research also show that my mother is dying after a long illness, and has medical bills that are several times her annual income?” Embarrassed, the United Way rep mumbled, “Um … no.”

The lawyer interrupts, “or that my brother, a disabled veteran, is blind and confined to a wheelchair?” The stricken United Way rep began to stammer out an apology, but was interrupted again. “or that my sister’s husband died in a traffic accident,” the lawyer’s voice rising in indignation, “leaving her penniless with three children?!”

The humiliated United Way rep, completely beaten, said simply, “I had no idea…”

On a roll, the lawyer cut him off once again, “So if I don’t give any money to them, why should I give it to you?”

Do a little more research. Really get to know that prospect!

Facing the Guillotine

During the French Revolution, there was a Nonprofit that seemed to be doing quite well serving their constituency. But the rank and file of the revolutionaries thought that they were hoarding their money. The people stormed the gates of the Nonprofit (bear with me, this is an anecdote) and took three people hostage that were going to be taken to the Guillotine – the Executive Director, the Director of Development and the A/S systems guy.

On the day planned for their execution, these three were taken to the Guillotine and told that they could say any last words and were told they could face the blade or keep their hood on and lie face down.

The Executive Director said she would face the blade and announced, “We have done all we could to help the people that we serve! I face the blade unafraid and unashamed.”

The executioner yelled, PULL! And the blade dropped three inches and stopped. The crowd gasped, and said, “It is God’s Will, she shall go free.”

The Director of Development said he would also face the blade and announced, “We have raised much money for the populace and kept our costs to pennies (francs?) on the dollar. I also face the blade unafraid and unashamed.”

The executioner again yelled, PULL! And the blade dropped five inches and stopped. The crowd gasped, and said, “It is God’s Will, he shall go free.”

The systems guy with his pocket protector said he would also face the blade. As he lay on the bed of the Guillotine, he looked up and pointed, “I think I see the problem!”

I guess I’m saying don’t kill the messenger (the systems guy) when he identifies your problems.

Favorite One-Liners

Two mobile phones got married. The service was terrible, but the reception was terrific. – CarTalk

I’m a great believer in luck and I find that the harder I work, the more of it I have. – Thomas Jefferson

I don’t need time, I need a deadline. – Duke Ellington

All those who believe in psycho-kinesis, raise my hand. – Steven Wright

I was a peripheral visionary. I could see the future, but only way off to the side. – Steven Wright

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity. – Anon

How come you never see the newspaper headline, “Psychic wins the lottery?” – Jay Leno

I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening.  But this wasn’t it. – Groucho Marx.

My friend is on a well-known diet plan, and so far he’s lost $300. – Anonymous

Sure, I’m in shape. Round is a shape. – Anonymous

USA Today has come out with a new survey: Apparently three out of four people make up 75 percent of the population.  – David Letterman

I’m a kleptomania, but whenever I get the urge to steal, I take something for it. – Anonymous

Q: What does the Tibetan Monk say to the Hot Dog vendor?
A: He tells the vendor, “Make me ONE with everything.”
(Yeah, sorry it’s a two liner. Please forgive me.)

If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved and never will achieve its full potential, that word would be “Meetings.” – Anonymous

You kick off, we receive.  – A planned giving officer at an SEC school.

I’ll be danged if I know how you can relate many of these to Advancement or Advancement Services, but I really like them.

Light Bulb Jokes

Q: How many brewers does it take to change a light bulb?
A: About one third less than for a regular bulb.

Q: How many frat guys does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: Five: One to hold the bulb, and four to guzzle beer until the room spins.

Q: How many mystery writers does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: Two, one to screw it almost all the way in and the other to give it a surprising twist at the end.

Q: How many mathematicians does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: None. It’s left to the reader as an exercise.

Q: How many gift planners does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: Only one, but it takes about twenty years for you to see the light.  

Pity! About the Gift Planners…

Railroad Switchman Test

Joe is applying for a job at the railroad as a Switchmen. He’s passed the written test and during the interview, an inspector asks him: “What would you do if you saw two trains were heading towards each other on the same track?”

Joe says: “I would switch one train to another track.”

“What if the lever broke?” asks the inspector.
“Then I’d use the manual lever”, answers Joe.

“What if that had been struck by lightning?” asks the inspector.
“I’d use the phone to call the next signal box.”

“What if the phone was busy?”
“I’d use the public phone near the station”.

“What if that had been vandalized?”
“If that happened,” Joe answers,  ” I’d run home and get my brother Frank”.

The inspector asked, “Why would you do that?”
“Because Frank’s never seen a train wreck.”

Do your prospects/donors/colleagues consider your system “a train wreck”?

Seminar Class

A student had registered for a seminar class in Economics. Toward the end of the semester the graduate assistant teaching the class announces that the grade will be based on a single exam administered to all 450 students.

The day of the test comes and the grad assistant hands out the test and tells the students that they have 50 minutes to finish the exam putting their answers in the omni-present “blue book.”

After 30 minutes he announces, there’s 20 minutes to go.

After 45 minutes, he warns the class that they’ve got 5 minutes left and that when he announces 50 minutes, they have to close their blue books and bring them to the front of the class and put them on his desk.

So at 50 minute he announces the end of the exam, “everybody close your blue books and bring them up here!” In the mass migration of the 450 students he doesn’t see one student still working hard on his exam.

As the last 20 students drop off their blue books, he does see this lone student, still entering information into the blue book. He yells out, “Hey you! You have to bring up your exam paper!”

The lone remaining student closes his blue book and packs up his stuff and walks to the teachers desk, strutting down the class aisle. As he gets to the grad assistant’s desk, he stretches his 6’2″ frame and says in a very loud voice, “DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?”

The grad assistant is a bit intimidated and stammers, “No, I don’t.”

The student says, “I didn’t think so” and slips his blue book into the pile on the teachers desk and quickly walks out of the hall.

If one of your donors asked, “Do you know who I am?” could you answer quickly, clearly and positively?

Job Interview

Reaching the end of a job interview, the Human Resources Person asked the young MBA fresh out of MIT, “And what starting salary were you looking for?” The candidate said, “In the neighborhood of $125,000 a year, depending on the benefits package.”

The HR Person said, “Well, what would you say to a package of 5-weeks vacation, 14 paid holidays, full medical and dental, company matching retirement fund to 50% of salary, and a company car leased every 2 years – say, a red Corvette?”

The Engineer sat up straight and said, “Wow!!! Are you kidding?” And the HR Person said, “Yeah, but you started it.”

If your Board Chair reviews your monthly progress reports, has he/she ever asked, “Are you kidding?”

College Future

Mom and dad were talking with their 8 year-old son about his future. The youngster said he’d like to attend Penn State, as his parents and other members of the family had.

Pleased with his response, they pressed on. “What would you like to take when you attend college?” they asked their son.

After giving it some thought and glancing around, he replied, “The refrigerator, if you can do without it.”

Stranded on a Deserted Island

So two guys watch their yacht go down and they find them selves stranded on a deserted island.

One is moaning and groaning, “All is lost! I’ll never see my wife and kids again!”

The other is quite cheery. He says, “I just pledged $100 grand to my Alma Mater. They’ll find me!”

Could you find your alum?


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SDG Charlie Hunsaker