Watch the Interview Live
by Bob Hopkins (Archive)
The word PHILANTHROPY isn’t new, but many think being a philanthropist is about money. In Bob Hopkins’ new book, he assures us it IS NOT. He and 100 of his friends define, by way of their good deeds, that philanthropy is about LOVE OF MANKIND. Philanthropy Misunderstood is a 256-page coffee- table book that will surely entertain and inform you. You won’t want to put it down. It is colorful and exciting.
“Bob Hopkins Introduces us to 100 plus new best friends…people like you and me who give of themselves who actually LOVE others. What a joyful time Bob shares with us. Optimism and hope emerge from every page. Each person’s story sparkles. Each one makes us prouder to be fellow ‘homo-sapiens’.” Dr. Claire Gaudiani, philanthropist, author, and international lecturer.
Bob recalls his first experience with his mother when he was five years old in Garden City, Kansas as they delivered groceries to a poor family during the holidays. He remembers the pat on the back he received from someone for doing good. “Maybe it was God,” he recalled.
For more information, go to Philanthropy Misunderstood.
Read the Interview
Hugh Ballou: Greetings. Welcome to this episode of The Nonprofit Exchange. Wow. This is going to open your mind to a whole new world. I just met Bob Hopkins recently on a recent trip to Dallas. Some of our previous guests that started Barefoot Winery said, “You have to meet Bob.” When I was in Dallas, I rang him up, and we met. They had shared his book with me called Philanthropy Misunderstood. I thought it was a nice book. When I started digging into the stories and what Bob knew about philanthropy, I said, “We have to share this with other people.” Bob, welcome to The Nonprofit Exchange. Tell people a little bit about you and your passion.
Bob Hopkins: Thank you, Hugh. I am so honored to be invited to be here with you as your guest today. I am glad to know that there are some other people in the book in your audience today. I am an older person. I have been around for a long time. Every 20 years, I ask myself, “What am I doing, and where am I going?” I have divided myself into four different segments of my life. I am in the last 18 years. I give myself another 18 years to live. I am trying to figure out what to do, so I am probably going to go to a seminar called PSI in June to find out what I’m going to do next.
But, Hugh, I have been involved with this word “philanthropy” for the last 45-50 years. I learn more about what it means all the time. Then I became confused and realized that what I thought philanthropy was is not. Or maybe it is part of, but that’s why I had to dig into it and tell stories of 108 people who actually do philanthropic things for other people. That’s what this book is about.
Hugh: How long have you been engaged in the nonprofit arena with leaders and different kinds of organizations?
Bob: I came to Dallas in 1984. I had just been involved as the director of development on the National Council of Alcoholism and learned all about this word called “fundraising” and philanthropy. Found out that the two of them are together as one word and one meaning, and they are also separate things. Some people get them mixed up. They think that fundraising is about money, but so is philanthropy. I have learned that philanthropy can be about money, but largely not. Instead, it’s doing good things for others. That’s how I got involved with this. I have been in Dallas for 38 years, and I have been working in raising money and now writing a book. I did a magazine called Philanthropy in Texas for a while. Every decade, I learned a little bit more about what that word means.
Hugh: Bob, you and I are in our mid-70s, we’ll say. We could be sitting back, chilling, and not doing anything. But you and I have a passion for being engaged. Why aren’t you sitting around? You’re teaching classes, and the stuff that you’re asking your students is really profound. You’re active with some local charities still. Why is this important to you?
Bob: I don’t know. I do it because I don’t know what else to do. I do play tennis, and I do ride horses. Those are two of my hobbies. I do spend time doing those two things every week, so it’s not like I’m constantly thinking about philanthropy, even though I have a horse named Philanthropy. I watch the USTA, and did you know the USTA is a nonprofit organization? They wouldn’t survive if they didn’t get contributions from people. They do good for others. I guess I’m involved with philanthropy pretty much all the time, even though it’s my joy. I love doing it. I like talking about it. I like telling people about it. I like finding people who are doing different new things. I have found so many people over my 40 years that I decided to put them in a book. That’s where Philanthropy Misunderstood came from.
Hugh: I’ve had the joy of visiting a couple. The whole family does this water project. I won’t get into it, but I want you to tell people. You called them up and said, “You have to meet Hugh.” I went over there, and it was an amazing visit with the whole family. I met the couple. I didn’t meet the kids, but I have heard about them and their involvement. How about highlighting some of the stories? Let’s talk about this one first; they will be guests on the show in June. It’s folding paper. How does that help people?
Bob: This is a crazy story, and it’s a fabulous story. It’s been so fabulous that it’s been on Good Morning America. Neiman Marcus actually helped these girls sell these ornaments that are called origami that they make. Their church and schools make them with them. They have volunteers of hundreds of people who do nothing but help make origami, and they sell the origami for $50-$75 apiece. To date, they have raised over $2 million building water wells to actually give water around the world. 170 different water wells in 17 or 18 different countries. These girls are 15, 13, and 10 years old. They started it when they were 4, 5, and 6 because Daddy is part Japanese. He said, “We need to do some origami.” One thing led to the other. I’m not sure what the other is and how detailed you have to get in to find out what the thinking was of the parents, about involving their children in making this origami. That’s their life. It is now their life. These girls are so smart because they are in a business. The 15-year-old is the president of the foundation. It’s a cool thing.
Hugh: I went to visit the whole house and the project. These volunteers come in to do the folding. It’s engaged people in a focus. I don’t know if the people come in and do that right now, but maybe the family can do more while the kids are out of school. There is another story in here that has a big picture, and it’s Bonnie and Michael with Barefoot Winery. They were guests a couple of months ago, and they were the ones who connected us. Tell the story about how you got connected and their story in the book.
Bob: It’s so interesting because Eric is actually the one who introduced me to Bonnie and Michael. He was the marketing director of Barefoot Wine. What Bonnie and Michael did, when they couldn’t sell the wine, because nobody wanted to buy it because there was no place to buy it, and liquor stores didn’t want to buy it because nobody was asking for it. They started giving it away to charities on the beach in beach towns, mainly starting in Florida. He would give it to them for free, and he said, “If you like it, go to your grocery stores and tell them to buy it.” Long story short, over 15 years, it became the #1 wine in America. Bonnie and Michael did it by giving wine away to charitable causes. I know that they had a marketing plan here. They said, “This is cause-related marketing,” which are words we used to use. They didn’t really know it was philanthropy because they really wanted to sell wine. But it also made them feel good, too. I have taken Bonnie and Michael on a philanthropy trip to Mexico. So I got to watch them in action. It didn’t have to do with wine; it had to do with building schools and painting houses for people in Mexico. It’s a great story. They are in the book, and they should be.
Hugh: The book is what you would call a coffee table book. It is hardbound. It’s a $45 book. The quality of printing and the quality of the stories and an amazing layout and design. It should be $100. It’s one of these treasures. My fourth book, which you have a copy of, Transforming Power, I teach people how to do things. I got to a point where I said, “Hmm, people want to be inspired by stories.” That’s one of the premises behind this show is for people to tell their stories. There are people out there in the trenches who are struggling to make ends meet, to pull people together, to rally volunteers, to rally their boards, to rally their funders. Let’s talk a bit about this title and what’s behind it. What is the biggest misunderstanding on both sides, the funder and people seeking funding?
Bob: It started with me. I was always told that philanthropy was about money. I started a magazine in Texas all about people who had money and gave it away. I would come into my staff and say, “I think we need to do Boone Pickens on the cover of the magazine. And the first question was, “How much money does he give away?” That was the common question. That was whether or not we were going to put him in the book on how much money they gave away. Finally, after a while, I realized, You know what? I know a lot of people who do so much more than writing a check. They’re never recognized.
I have this incredible woman from Houston named Carolyn Farb who spends 26 hours a day helping people learn how to raise money, but also build a hospital, and do all kinds of things. She is not known to be a huge giver, even though she is a giver; therefore, her picture would not be on the front cover of anything because of money. But it would be because of the word “philanthropy.” I realized, because of Carolyn, that I was talking to the wrong people. I needed to be talking to people who were in the book. The people in the book probably give money as well, but that wasn’t what I wanted the focus on. I wanted them to tell me why they do what they do. Why do they build origami and build water wells around the world? They don’t get any money for it, and they don’t give any money. They give things. Well, they do give money because they raise money in their case.
Bonnie and Michael, they give money, too. Instead, they gave wine. Chip Richey gives his time and effort and expertise in filmmaking. He’s made lots of films about the Indians and Oklahoma. He did things for me for my philanthropy courses. There is Jordie Turk who was a student of mine, who volunteered on his own dime to come to Dallas and video my launch party. His name is not even on the piece. But he did it. He loved it. He is happy about it. I think that’s what philanthropy does, more so than what money does, is gives you joy. That’s what everybody says. I get so much more out of what I did than what I gave.
Hugh: Philanthropy is both. We have to run the organization. It’s like having a car. You have to put gas in it. But there is a bigger piece to this. It’s not money alone. Sometimes, people want to give money to save their conscience. They want to be doing something, and they’re not really involved with it. So they want to buy a place. but buying a place and stepping up and working. Talk about the synergy of the two of those together.
Bob: I’m a giver. But nobody would ever recognize me as a financial giver because I give $100 or $200 or $25 or $50 or whatever. I’m involved with a lot of organizations. I give not necessarily because I love the organization, but I love the person who is asking me. So I write a check in order to continue this relationship I have with this person as a friend or as a person who works with me.
But when I actually take on a project and get my feet dirty and hands wet, and I go out and build something, or I paint, I come back tired, but for some reason, I give myself this secret pat on my shoulder and say, “You did good today, Bobby.” That’s what happened to me when I was five years old. My mother and I went to give groceries in a trailer park in Garden City, Kansas. We walked away, and I felt this hand on my shoulder. It was patting my shoulder, and it said, “You did good today, Bobby.” I looked around, and there was nobody there. That is the feeling I have gotten because of giving my time and efforts, as opposed to writing a check to get you off my back to say, “Go. I put my name someplace.” They go, “Oh wow, $100. Thank you so much.” Then they come back the next year and do the same thing. There is just a real difference between the people who are in the trenches and the people who aren’t.
Hugh: I think it’s important to give at any level. You say that you won’t get recognized for $25 or $50. But if we get a lot of people who support us with their time, talent, and money—you give your time, talent, and money. There is a triage there that are all magnified by each other. If you have the synergy if you have one person who gives $25, great. If you have 1,000 people who give $25, then you are paying salary and rent and some operating costs. Then you can rev up the engines and focus on your mission.
I do find a lot of charities are compromised in many ways, but as you know, the story of SynerVision is we want to empower leaders to step up to the level that they can take the organization. I noticed some of your students are here from the class, and I want to talk about them as well. There is a synergy in those three. We spend time teaching leaders how to raise the bar on their performance so we know how to engage people who are philanthropic-minded. There is a whole lot of stuff there. Jeff, “Bob has given many of us the gift of learning to give, and it is life-changing.” What a quote that is.
Talk about your students. I got to sit in on three classes last week. You’re doing this Zoom group session education, which is quite remarkable. Your gracious spirit with them, and you see what’s inside them, and you see potential that maybe some of them don’t see in themselves. You said to me you challenged them to think about writing a eulogy, but you also mentioned doing some research on a nonprofit organization. There was a need for you to have to explain what that meant. What is a nonprofit organization? Talk a little bit about the class.
Bob: I taught at a university here. I was teaching business and professional speaking. I decided I wanted to bring in my love and passion for the course. How am I going to bring my love and passion into the course when philanthropy is not in the syllabus? I included philanthropy in the syllabus. When you talk about business, you are going to talk about nonprofit businesses. They had never heard of a nonprofit business, even though they had. They knew what the Salvation Army and the Red Cross was. They knew what the Boys and Girls Club and Boy Scouts are. But they didn’t know they were nonprofit organizations. They didn’t know there were two million of them in the United States. They didn’t know that half of the things that are positive about our country is philanthropy. I said, “Okay, let’s have you all look at a nonprofit you are connected with.” They had no idea they were even connected with one.
Landon is a new student this semester in my class right now. You asked him a question and asked him to talk when you were in my class. He did. He has a passion. You can feel it when he talks, about the things he does or can do and wants to do to serve people in our community. What I’m doing is there is maybe a small fire underneath them already, and I’m turning up the heat. They get passionate about it, and I empower them to do something about it once they learn about the fact that they can do it. They can do something on their own. Landon is one of those. He has several physical problems, and one of them is with his eyes. He picked a nonprofit organization that had to do with sight. He loves being involved with something he can connect with and understand. We all do. We all can. I am attention-deficit. There is a nonprofit organization and a school that has to do with children teaching children about dyslexia and Attention Deficit Disorders. There is something I can do. There is something everybody can do because we all have something that we are connected with, and we just didn’t know it.
Hugh: I was going to come in and say hello, and I stayed the whole class for two of them. We are recording this in the middle of being sequestered home. It’s a time of refreshing, renewal, revising, and thinking about how when we go back to work, how we are going to define the new normal. We are leaders. We will reset the bar. I don’t think we’re going to go back to what we did before. Most of the people in the book didn’t do things in ordinary ways; that’s why they are in the book. These stories will inspire others not just to do the same old thing that they always had observed, but to think about what they bring to the table that’s really special. What is the new opportunity? Bob, let’s dig into some more of these stories. The book is divided into sections. Talk a little bit about why that is and why that’s important.
Bob: I had some great people working with me. Tom Dolphins from Kansas City designed the book. The book is so attractive that people want to find out what it is. It’s not just the words, but it’s the design. And Ann Vigola from Lawrence, Kansas started out as my editor. She happened to be a student of mine prior to that. Ann spent a lot of time figuring out how to organize this book because as being an attention-deficit person, I have all this information up here. I didn’t know how to organize it. It was organized starting out with topics. We did One Day at a Time because I am a recovering alcoholic, and I wanted to talk a little bit about that topic. One Day at a Time also had to do with the AIDS epidemic. I had a brother who died of AIDS, and I wanted to focus on that. Every person in here has had something to do in my life. People would say, “You didn’t do so-and-so. They are such a great person.” I said, “I know, but I didn’t work with them.” All of these people, I worked with. All the stories in here, many of them, I had something to do with.
Chip got me involved in the Phoenix Project, or maybe I got him involved, which was helping warriors coming home from war, connecting them with their spouses on retreats with horses and massages. Chip actually put together a video about this whole thing. I was involved with that. I went to the sweat lodges with these warriors and watched them connect and relate to each other. They are all stories I have been involved with in one way or another, and that’s one story I like a lot.
Jordie worked with me with the poorest of the poor kids in Mexico in Guanajuato, Mexico, Leon. We would go to the poorest school, and I would tell the teachers, “I want to take your kids for just an hour once a week and bring in 20 of my students. We will teach them philanthropy.” We watched children change because of a handshake. Jordie was able to volunteer his time, even though he was a student of mine, to put this fabulous piece together that is on YouTube. These are all stories we were able to capture. I wish I’d had these two men together with me for all of the stories because somebody’s contacted me and said, “We need to make a movie here with these short stories.” Some of them still have long-lasting things. One of the people in Mexico said, “Just teaching a child to do a handshake and watch her change as a person week after week after week has changed me as a person,” she said. It does. When you do philanthropy, it changes you.
Hugh: That’s a great sound bite. Serving churches in music ministry for 40 years, I took many mission trips. We went to give them, but we came back having received a lot more than we tried to give away. There is a reciprocity to giving. You’re a giver, but you’re blessed by your giving. You’re enriched by your giving. You give stuff away, but it really impacts you. When I am with you, you’re just full of energy. You’re this most passionate energized person purposeful person. What more about the book? Was there a story here delving into their story for the book, that really moved you more than any other story?
Bob: Yeah. We took a vote in our little group who put this book together, Ann, Tom, and I. There is one called “Bridging the Gap.” It is written by Morgan Herm. He is a schoolteacher. He talks about a bridge that is in Pennsylvania, where he lives. He would go and meditate there. On this bridge, he noticed that somebody had put in a letter between the planks. He opened the letter, and it was a letter that a person had written about them being able to become at peace with themselves because of meditating on this bridge. He put the letter back. Then there was a collection of letters that people would put in about how this bridge had brought them peace. It helped them through their divorce, or it helped them through their domestic violence. Morgan finally built a mailbox so people could put their letters in the mailbox. They could read each other’s letters. That’s philanthropy. That bridge serves as a philanthropic metaphor or example of peace and love. That’s one of my favorites, and it’s written so well because Morgan is an English teacher and writer.
Hugh: Each contributor wrote their own story.
Bob: They wrote their own stories. There were a couple of them that I wrote. There was a woman named Ruth Altschuter in Dallas who died last year. I wanted her in the book. So I went to her husband and said, “Would you write this for me?” He said, “No, I can’t write anymore. I don’t write.” I said, “Let me write Ruth’s story, and you approve it.” He said okay. But most people wrote their own stories.
One lady wrote a story that I told her should be 1,000 words. It was 5,000 words. I read it and realized I couldn’t cut anything out. It’s the history of Swiss Avenue, which is one of the oldest historic districts in the United States. She called it, “Philanthropy Built Her Neighborhood.” It’s about how the mansions and big houses on Swiss Avenue became run-down in the ‘30s, ‘40s, and ‘50s. You could buy a piece of property here for $10 or 25,000, which are now going for $2 million, back in the old days. She wanted to tell the story about how it became a fabulous neighborhood that is looked upon as one of the premier places in the United States. It ended up being 10 pages, and I left the 5,000 words. It is the longest story. It wasn’t meant to be that way, but it’s really well done, so I didn’t cut it out.
Hugh: You said here. Is it in Dallas?
Bob: Yes. I live in that district. I live in the Swiss Avenue historic district.
Hugh: Wow, that’s fascinating. Landon has a question. Landon, you’re live, so if you have your mic on, do you want to talk to us?
Landon Shepherd: My question is, let’s say I have an idea for a nonprofit I would like to start. But I don’t really know exactly how or where to start it, or who to talk to about getting started with what I want to do. What would be your advice to some of the students who may have these ideas, but don’t know how to work out these ideas?
Hugh: That question is for your professor?
Landon: Either one of you guys.
Hugh: We’ll tag-team on it. Go ahead, Bob.
Bob: He’s a student of mine, and I will definitely have a talk about that. But we have in Dallas and in Fort Worth and every major city in the United States a center for nonprofit management. The centers for nonprofit management in each of the major cities are where people can go learn about giving and learn how to start an organization, a 501(c)3, the who, what, when, where, why. They have seminars all the time. You can go to the Community Foundation of Texas. You can go to the Dallas Foundation. These are other avenues of where people are experts in this. Yes, there is a way to do that. Landon, I will tell you who to contact here in Dallas.
Hugh: There are centers like that in every city. There is also a universal presence called SynerVision Leadership Foundation. We have a blue button at the top of our page labeled, “Join.” We have this community with all kinds of resources. Sometimes, we find how to do strategy or how to do leadership or how to do fundraising or how to do a brand or marketing. We put it in one continuous process so you don’t have to look around. You can look at our site and see if that suits you. Combine working in person with one of these centers Bob is talking about. That would give you a leg up.
Bob, I know half of the nonprofits started each year will close ultimately. My take on it is they haven’t done a good job of looking at the market to make sure it’s not being duplicated, and they haven’t really activated their board and set themselves up for success. What is your idea of why some of those close?
Bob: You’re right. They usually are started by people who don’t have any information. They have a passion, which you have to have for the topic. People who have cancer, they want to start a nonprofit organization that has to do with cancer and raise money in the name of somebody. The Susan G. Komen Foundation was started by Nancy Brinker here in Dallas because her sister Susan G. Komen had breast cancer. She told her before she died, “I am going to find you a cure for this.” What Nancy did was she surrounded herself with experts who knew how to put together a nonprofit. Now, it is the best one in the world.
I can tell you five or six right off the top of my head that didn’t last for more than a year because they didn’t have a board of directors, they didn’t know how to do their paperwork, they started raising money without knowing how to be a fundraiser. Let me tell Landon and everybody this. There is an association called the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) in the United States. 35,000 professional fundraising people. I was a member of this group for most of my years as the president here in Dallas and went to all the major conferences. There are conferences every year with AFP. There is a luncheon in most major cities every month that brings together all the people who raise money for the nonprofits in any city. There is a program with a speaker. It is a time to network, the people who have been there and done it before. That’s how you do it.
Hugh: Building a network around you. There is a peer-to-peer network, which is great, but you want to have a network of people who are even better than you. In my case, it’s not hard to do. But hang around people who have been there, done that, and are experts.
We have Jeffrey Fulgham watching who has a question. I want to allow you to talk. Jeffrey has been a member of that and is a certified fundraiser. Why is it important for you? You went through the certification process and studied development for so many years. Do you want to comment on the organization and why it’s so important for people to understand now?
Jeffrey Fulgham: I have always looked at it as a cliché of the good housekeeping seal of approval. I think this gets more important every day. This needs to be a profession, and it needs to be professional, not just in fundraisers but in nonprofits. There has to be some standard. We hope it’s a standard of excellence, but there has to be some standard by which people can look and say, “Okay, this is an organization, or an individual, who is committed to certain principles, certain basic values, that transcend whatever it is that that organization is involved in.” Obviously, there are certain organizations whose values are going to be different than another one. But those values are related to the mission, not the operating strategy or the integrity of the entity or the integrity of the individuals working within it. What it allows us to do is create that standard. When someone looks at an organization, they have Guidestar to go to and the other metric organizations. But they also have a way to look and say, “Hey, this is what these organizations support. These are the values they support. This organization belongs to them and subscribes to these values. They subscribe to certain values. They set the standard.” Of course, the CFRE sets the standard as well. I think it’s important for people who are giving, but also for people who want to get involved as volunteers, who want to go to work somewhere. Do you want to work for an organization that subscribes to certain values and has that level of integrity? That’s the main reason why I think it’s all-important.
Hugh: Great. Before I let you go back into your listening mode, do you have a question for our guest today about philanthropy or about his book?
Jeffrey: You know, that’s the first time I’ve heard of this book. I’m definitely going to have to get a copy of it. I think it’s really interesting that you mentioned that philanthropy is not necessarily about money. I always tell people that fundraising is not about money; it usually ends in money, but it’s about relationships and about creating relationships that are long-lasting. Those relationships should transcend the money in that just because in a bad year, and we’re having one by the way, where people are not going to make gifts to organizations they care about because they have to take care of their families and their friends. They will give more money to their church. They will make hard decisions about who they are giving to. If that person doesn’t make a gift to my organization but they have been supporting me for 20 years, do I abandon them and ignore them because they are not giving money through our fundraising? No. Because I have a relationship with them that transcends their financial giving, or possibly their volunteerism. It becomes a different thing. Philanthropy is definitely a mindset beyond money, and I love that you are bringing that to the surface so people can understand what it’s about.
Hugh: I’m glad you asked me where to get the book. There is a website called PhilanthropyMisunderstood.org. You can find out how to get the book there.
Bob: Thank you, Jeffrey. I want to know more about you as well. I am a member of AFP and of CFRE as well. There are a couple of people in the book who are CFRE, Scott Staub, and Alfonse Brown. They have great stories in there not about fundraising. As you say, it was about relationship-building and the volunteerism they participated in as well.
Hugh: Not everybody wrote a story in there. There is a story about a horse. Who wrote that?
Bob: I wrote that one. It’s my best story. I wanted Philanthropy to be on my front cover, and Philanthropy happens to be my horse. This woman by the name of Tracy Carruth, who is a big philanthropist in Dallas, breeds horses. I happen to have an Arabian horse. She breeds Arabian horses. Napatoff, who is her most beautiful world champion horse, was retiring. Before he died or left the breeding ring, she wanted to make sure that I got an offspring from Napatoff. She gave me the semen from Napatoff to go into Sherry Rochesta, who was my Arabian. Through that, we got a beautiful horse that I named Philanthropy. I wanted to start that as my first story. My editor didn’t like it, so we put it into the back. I am there with Tracy Carruth and our horses. That’s the story.
Hugh: The standards for everything, the quality of the writing and the photographs, the design of the book, all of these sections in the book. You start out with Circle of Influence. Jeffrey headed us that way. It’s not about money; it’s about relationship. When you and I had lunch recently, we talked about relationship. You now have a relationship with all these people, and they wanted to be in your book. Why is relationship important to our work? Relationship in our teaching at SynerVision, it’s the underpinning of leadership and ministry, and it’s the support for communications. Funding and philanthropy happens as a result of relationship. Say a little more about relationship and how it’s important.
Bob: Debbie Mrazek, who is one of the writers, wrote a part in the book called “Your Circle of Influence.” Who are all those people who will take care of you, who will take you to the airport and lend you sugar and tell you where to get the plumber? I had my students write down 100 people they know, wheedle it down to 25, and then 15 who will be in their circle of influence. I teach networking. It’s not what you know; it’s who you know. That’s the first thing and last thing I say in my classes. My students, I say, “How many people do you know?” They didn’t know 100 people. One of them knew seven. My family members. No, I don’t want to meet anybody. No, I don’t need people.
I said to the class, “I’m going to take students to Nepal. It will cost $1,500. How many of you can raise the money to make it happen?” I went to this girl who said she knew seven people, and she didn’t want to know any more people. She said, “I don’t know anybody. I don’t want to know anybody. I guess I’m not going to Nepal.” I said, “I guess you’re not.” We took people to Nepal because my students most of the time realize that they have a great number of people around them who care about them, but there is a methodology of how to influence people and how to cultivate people and how to get them to be your friends and more than friends, how to be a good friend, how to help people, and actually go around hunting for things to do for people. That’s what I want my students to become. I don’t think that we get anywhere in life without others. That’s one of the key principles that I teach in my communication classes.
Hugh: Your class that I sat in on is really about communications. You’re really promoting good thinking skills. Communication to me is based on relationship. We can send a whole bunch of emails that nobody reads. It’s not about data.
Bob: No. I send emails, and I pick up the phone. We used to send faxes. We used to go knock on their door. We used to drive by. I think that this time right now, we’re trying to figure out how to continue life in solitude since we are told to stay home and stay home alone. I think we’re finding this television and this computer even more important than ever since this is how we’re able to stay in touch, through this cell phone we love so much and this computer. However, I can go next door and knock on the door and take them a cake and say, “I was thinking of you and realize you may not have any desserts at your house today.” Sometimes, I’ll have my lawnmower man come out and next door, they don’t mow their lawn very much. “Go mow their lawn. I’ll pay you.” The people come home and say, “I can’t believe you had somebody mow my lawn.” It was a philanthropic idea I had, was to love mankind and do something for the person next door.
Hugh: Bob is an inspiration. My ideas are popping. You have 100 creative ideas every six seconds. You’re prolific. In these stories, 100+ stories from people who helped change the world. We are all doing our part. It’s not one person. But one person can start a movement. My friend in Lynchburg, he was the person who founded Stop Hunger Now, which is now Rise Against Hunger. Before we had a setback with coronavirus, they were on target to package 750 million meals. Their vision is to end hunger in our lifetime. It’s not just about packaging the meals; it’s about a lot more than that. One person thought of that and founded it, and it’s now a major movement that will exist long past his lifetime, which is what he wanted. It’s a legacy. What are the legacy possibilities for any of us who say, “I want to do something for humankind and have it keep going?” Are there possibilities for all of us?
Bob: I always say, “What are you doing for the person who just passed away in your life? What will you do for your mother? What will you do for your father?” I got involved with building schools in Nepal with Don Wilkes.
Let me tell you about Don Lueke since he is here. Don Lueke is from Kansas City; he and I met probably 30 years ago because he taught children at his school about giving. It’s Junior Leadership. It’s similar to my PAVE program (Philanthropy and Volunteers Education). For the last 15-20 years, he and a man by the name of Steve O’Neill, who are businesspeople in Kansas City, take time out of their week every week to teach children at the Catholic school where their children go about giving back. This has become so sophisticated that this last year, I was a part of a seminar they had at the University of Missouri in Kansas City, where all of his students, maybe 30 or 40 of them, came and gave presentations on nonprofit organizations they had helped in the community. He does similar things to me: empower young people to get involved in the community. There is a double-page about him and this group he is doing it with.
Don Wilkes in Nepal for example. What can you do to honor somebody? He said, “If you can make a contribution of a couple thousand dollars, we will put someone’s name on a classroom in a school we are building in Nepal.” I called my brother and sister and said, “For $2,000, we can put our mother’s name on a classroom in Nepal.” My brother says, “I want to see a video of what it looks like.” I sent him the video, and he called me back immediately and said, “Let’s do it.” My sister said, “Sight unseen, let’s do it. We want to honor our mother.” For $2,000, our mother’s name is on a school’s room in Nepal. I know because I went to Nepal to see it. I had to go see my mother’s name. When I got out of the car, and the children were clapping for me because I was amongst them, because I gave a simple $2,000 and put my mother’s name on the deal, gave me such joy that we decided to do it again. I put my cousin’s name and my aunt’s name in another classroom on another school they are building in Nepal. That is a way you can provide not necessarily for yourself, but for somebody else that meant a lot in this society. Everybody we run around with meant a lot in this society. They did something in their lives that changed the world.
Hugh: Absolutely. That’s an inspiration. Are you willing to entertain questions if I open everybody’s mic?
Eric Groover: Bob, this is Eric Groover from the University of North Texas. How are you doing, Bob?
Bob: Hi, Eric. It’s good to see you again.
Eric: Hugh, I just want to say thank you for hosting Bob. Bob and I are new acquaintances through some of our students at the Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science here at the University of North Texas in Denton. Just north of the DFW metroplex. Bob was actually scheduled to come to speak to some students on our campus last week, and unfortunately, we had to cancel that. Bob was gracious enough to bring up some of the books that we purchased for our students and faculty and staff. We spent a few minutes violating the university’s shelter-in-place order, visiting in my office for 20-30 minutes. I just wanted to say, Bob, that it’s been lovely watching you today and hearing your stories again. Just a huge thank-you to Hugh for hosting this event. He does you credit, and I’m glad for that. Thank you very much.
Hugh: Thank you, Eric. Blessings.
Nancy Hopkins: This is Nancy Carol Hopkins. Yes, I am Bob’s sister. I am watching from Tucson, Arizona. Obviously, Bob has been an influence in a lot of people’s lives, including mine and our younger brother. I wanted to make a comment on the volunteerism point. First of all, Bob gets asked frequently how come he stays so young and is so active at his age and has so much energy. If you look up and do some research on volunteerism, there is a lot of research that shows that volunteerism actually helps you medically, emotionally, physically, keeps you young literally. It does. There is medical research to prove that. If anybody wants to know how Bob stays so young and energetic, it has nothing to do with vitamins and pills he is taking. It has everything to do with the work that he does.
Hugh: Very helpful, Nancy. Thank you so much for being here. Thank you for sharing that.
Nancy: You’re welcome.
Hugh: You don’t have to take tonic if you hang around Bob Hopkins.
Nancy: That’s right. You don’t.
Hugh: That’s so rich. By the way, our governor slapped a stay-at-home order on us until June 10. The exception is volunteerism. If you volunteer for a charity, you can get out and do it. That was a good thing, I thought.
Penny Rambacker: Hi, this is Penny Rambacker. How are you doing, Bob?
Bob: They said, Penny. I was hoping it was you.
Penny: I’d like to make another comment about the idea of having purpose. I think Bob has a purpose, as many of us philanthropists have. I have been reading a book recently that said two of the things you can do to be the happiest in life are 1) to have a purpose and to feel needed, and that keeps you young and alive, and 2) is to be grateful. Those of us that practice gratitude and appreciate what we have are oftentimes people who are giving because they have seen other people with greater needs than their own. They become grateful for all of the things they have in their life. I had a huge gratitude lesson back when I first got into this. That was when I visited the garbage dump in Guatemala City. I saw children living there. It really touched my heart, and I had to do something about it. I found my purpose, and I felt grateful for the life I have. Two good things to think about when you are doing philanthropy. Yep, that’s me and my kids.
Hugh: What page is that on, Bob?
Bob: Pages 48-49.
Hugh: Love it. Great stories. Penny, where are you?
Penny: I am in Naples, Florida. We work in Guatemala. My charity has built 57 schools in the mountains of Guatemala. We also sell handicrafts. We just sent an e-newsletter telling people to visit our store online. It’s virus-free. You can go shopping for a greater good. If you want to go shopping, we have great things at Store.MiraclesInAction.org.
Hugh: Good for you. I have been to Guatemala, and people are very poor. They have lots of wonderful natural resources. They do wonderful clothes with all these designs that are brilliant. What are you showing, Bob?
Bob: This is Don Lueke’s page. He is on pages 82-83.
Hugh: Don, do you want to comment?
Don Lueke: This is a great opportunity to showcase your work, Bob, and the work of everybody in that book. I appreciate the efforts on your part. Just want to add. We talk about having a purpose. I think that is what makes us get up every day, or at least get up quicker. I don’t know if I have a lot more to add. I’m humbled by everybody’s story in the book, so I think I am just one of many.
Hugh: Thank you for sharing. I am humbled by being part of Bob’s network.
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Bob, what is a parting thought you’d like to leave people with today?
Bob: I am going to do another book called Philanthropy Understood. It’s going to be new people. Some of the old people we want to expand upon, too. I’d like to do something with TAMS. I think TAMS is a great program that Eric Groover has been a part of before. There are so many people that I have been thinking about. That’s what I’m doing right now, and that’s why so many people are here who are in the book because I sent them a memo telling them all that we are needing to stay together on a monthly basis.
We did have a man pass away yesterday in the book, Charles Lowe. He has spent 45 years working with the disease called neurofibromatosis, and I worked for them for eight years. I was able to tell all of the people in the book about his passing. So many people responded who didn’t even know Charles but did know his article in the book. I think the more we create this circle of influence around ourselves, the richer our lives are going to be. Also, the kinds of people we depend upon, I always try to find people who are smarter than you who have more things going on for them because they will lift me up instead of running around with people who will pull me down.
My challenge to everyone is to continue these kinds of groups and continue doing good together. That is the real fun about philanthropy and being volunteers. It’s a togetherness thing. I did go with Penny to Guatemala, and I loved the experience. She is in the book. I went with her 20 years ago. I included her in the book because that experience changed my life 20 years ago. It’s one of those many things that make up a person. It’s so much fun going back in my history, in my family. My sister is the greatest philanthropist of our family. She is doing more than me even. I think that’s the joy. I don’t even say it’s happy anymore; it’s a joy to walk out on my front porch and say, “God, take me. What is my next step? What do I have to do next?” You know what. Somebody picks me up and takes me. I think that’s the lesson I have learned more than anything: you have to be willing and tell people.
Hugh: Bob Hopkins, you are a gift to humankind. Thank you so much for being our guest today.
Bob: Thank you.