Why did McDonald’s heiress Joan Kroc leave more than $200 million of her wealth to NPR and not a cent to PBS? Because no one at PBS returned a phone call.
That’s one of the revelations reported by longtime public radio journalist Lisa Napoli in her new book, Ray & Joan: The Man Who Made the McDonald’s Fortune and the Woman Who Gave It All Away.
If you’re a fundraiser looking for practical lessons from this story, ALWAYS ANSWER YOUR PHONE is about all you’re going to get. Kroc’s transformative 2003 bequest was as much a fluke as it was the result of any major gift officer’s strategy.
Kroc wasn’t even much of an NPR fan. Rather she was a woman who was quickly dying and had limited time to make big decisions about her big money. When it came down to it, she remembered a meeting she’d had a few years earlier (arranged by KPBS’ Stephanie Bergsma) with NPR’s then-president, Kevin Klose.
“She was dazzled by him,” Napoli told me on The Pub. “She understood the importance of news and media in keeping a society free and democratic.”
Klose had hoped Kroc would give at the $25,000 level. His hopes were, um, exceeded.
Also on The Pub this week, we continue our conversation with UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh about whether journalists are at all different from regular people in the eyes of the law, apropos of a prosecutor’s attempt to charge Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman in connection to her Dakota Access Pipeline reporting.
In other news, The Pub is coming to Chicago! Register now to attend a living taping at the Public Media Millennials Third Coast Afterparty on Saturday, Nov. 12.
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Adam Ragusea hosts Current’s weekly podcast The Pub and is a journalist in residence and visiting assistant professor at Mercer University’s Center for Collaborative Journalism.