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Famous Last Words : Could Help Be on the Way?

March 2014 By Denny Hatch
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How many times in my life have I offered to work for good causes that were in trouble? Pro bono. Free.

I remember the development guy from Philadelphia's Academy of Natural Sciences contacted me for pro bono help. I took him to lunch and regaled him with stories of the Who's Mailing What! archive of direct mail—over 200,000 mailings going back 25 years. I assembled a sampling of powerful control mailings from museums around the country and delivered them to him. My explanation: these worked. Let's pick out several we like and "steal smart."

He never called. Finally, I called him and he told me he did get the packet of mailings I left at the front desk. He passed them around to his staff.

"Did these work?" staffers asked.

"Yes," the guy said. "Made money."

"Well they don't work for us."

End of story.

In the museum's revenue crunch, the guy and his entire staff were axed.

A Weakness for Animals
Peggy and I adore animals. We've been to Africa three times and have always had dogs, cats and birds. We've spent many thousands of dollars on vets and many thousands more on house sitters when we were traveling.

So when I discovered the catastrophe at the National Zoo via the article, "'Stretched resources' blamed for all hell breaking loose at the National Zoo," it broke my heart.

I had as a client the Whitney Museum in New York for a number of years. I know about assembling upmarket lists of potential donors in a specific area—plus the business of direct mail copy and design.

I probably could be useful to the folks at the National Zoo in this gawdawful era of sequestration and tight budgets. According to, National Zoo animals are dying, running away and being euthanized. Are they going hungry? I couldn't bear it.

But too many people have said "no" in the past. In Philly, for example, the Fairmount Park Conservancy, the Seaport Museum and the Philadelphia Zoo—as well as the Academy of Natural Sciences—all told me to buzz off.


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