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Bill McLeRoy Shares his Fundraising Philosophy

Senior Principal at The Whitestone Group shares lessons learned in his 30-plus years of service and experience.

Bill McLeRoy Shares his Fundraising Philosophy

Senior Principal at The Whitestone Group shares lessons learned in his 30-plus years of service and experience.

William "Bill" McLeRoy '68 MA
Bill McLeRoy ’68 MA received the 2016 Ben Franklin Award for Outstanding Fundraising Executive, presented by the Fort Worth Metro Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. He was recognized for his efforts to support organizations ranging from the arts and human services to healthcare and offender re-entry. Photo courtesy of Bill McLeRoy

William “Bill” McLeRoy ’68 MA wears a lot of hats. Husband. Father. Business owner. Fundraiser. Teacher. Elected official. One common theme is woven throughout his varied roles: a commitment to service above self. This modus operandi has proved successful in his family, business and community relationships.

McLeRoy was an assistant professor of history at Central Virginia Community College in Lynchburg, Virginia, and served as vice president for development at Austin College in Sherman, Texas. In 1996, he founded The Whitestone Group, a philanthropy consulting firm serving local, regional and national nonprofit clients.

A certified fundraising executive, he received the 2016 Ben Franklin Award for Outstanding Fundraising Executive, presented by the Fort Worth Metro Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. During his extensive career, McLeRoy has encouraged donors to contribute upward of $35 million to numerous causes.

In his commitment to service, McLeRoy served as a City Council member and mayor pro tem of Aledo, Texas, treasurer of the Aledo Economic Development Corporation and a member of the board of directors for North Texas Public Broadcasting/KERA.

McLeRoy and his wife, Sherrie, co-authored Strangers in Their Midst: The Free Black Population of Amherst County, Virginia (2007, Heritage Books).

During his 30-plus years of service and experience, McLeRoy has picked up quite a few lessons:

Transforming lives for the good yields unending satisfaction. I try to remember that when I’m getting into a project, it’s not just “me.” It should always be “we” — who else can be involved, contribute and be a partner in what we’re trying to do? As I look out into the political universe, there’s a lot of “me” as compared to “we.” It’s important to remember we’re not an island by ourselves.

Faith and hope are not plans. They are the positive power that moves us from today to tomorrow. I don’t know how often in fundraising that I’ve heard board members say, “I hope we can get it done,” or “We have faith it can happen.” I have to be pretty blunt and say, “Neither of those are going to get you where you want to go.” Take that as a power and, from it, make plans, schedules and goals, and take action. Faith is great, but it has to be put in the fuel tank of an organized effort to accomplish some goals.

Share good news with all team members to give them skin in the game, so that when good news happens, everyone gets a share of it. At Austin College, I would take donor checks around to every member in the department and let them see it. It drove the business office nuts. I think the largest check I did that with was $1 million. It made a difference to people so that they understood that they were part of a process greater than just sitting at their desk and doing some work.

Change is the crucible of opportunity. Some people are uncomfortable with change, and I understand that. But change creates new opportunities. When you’re looking for opportunities, look at what’s changing and then take advantage of that.

When making decisions, keep in mind the big picture as well as the immediate circumstance and avoid taking action simply to scratch an ego. Try to look 360 degrees around, see what’s going on, get a perspective on it and avoid just clinging to the short view. I’m glad I studied history because it taught me to look beyond the present to the past and see what I can learn to help guide the future. I think that’s one of the things that helped me in my work on the City Council.

Teamwork contributes to success, just as many strands make a strong cable. When I’m looking at an organization that is having problems, I can almost invariably look at the board and see that they are trying to do everything themselves and not involving others. They are not opening the door to create a sense of teamwork.

Learn from both success and failure. If you don’t try, you don’t succeed. You learn from your successes what works.

Being a steward is important. We are stewards of the universe around us, and we are also stewards of the trust that others bestow on us.

Give back to those in need. I think that’s a constant obligation and opportunity for us whether it’s giving time, giving money or giving thought. Whatever it may be, I think that’s very important professionally and certainly personally. Personally, my family and I use a donor-advised fund at the North Texas Community Foundation to support a variety of causes.

Never stop learning. I think there’s a tendency in our society to think that as people get older, they should stop learning. I’m a big fan of learning.

Love given unselfishly lifts us up, mends broken spirits, and opens hearts and minds to new horizons beyond all understanding. I’m not talking about physical love but a fundamental love that helps us relate to each other and go the extra mile and to reach out to individuals in times of need and hurt and times of great enjoyment. I think that helps others accomplish what is important to them and opens their hearts and minds to explore new horizons.

— As told to Rachel Stowe Master

Edited for clarity and length.