Although I’m proud of my own 16 years in fundraising I am fully aware that I’m just a rookie compared to some old-timers out there. This post is a short tribute to one of the greatest fundraisers of his generation: Gerhard Wallmeyer, also known as “Wally”.
At the end of the year Wally retires after 36 years of superb fundraising for Greenpeace Germany, in which he as Fundraising Director has built the largest fundraising office in the Greenpeace movement.
Former Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo appropriately put it like this:
“The struggle for justice is a marathon, not a sprint. And the biggest contribution that any one of us can make is maintaining a lifetime of involvement until we win those struggles.”
Wally did just that.
A few extraordinary achievements:
It was Wally who introduced us all to autopayments. More than half a million regular donors currently support Greenpeace Germany. In his lifetime Wally, and his team, raised more than a billion euro to give a green and peaceful future to generations to come. Yes. A billion euro.
The first time I met Wally was in 2010. I just started working for Greenpeace International and took the train to Hamburg to get to know the German fundraising program. Wally told me about his thoughtfully constructed program, which he built over the years. And although his approach to fundraising seems scientific to others, his vision on fundraising is very clear as he told me:
“Fundraising is not a science, but a systematic collection of experiences.”
During the many Fundraising Directors meetings in Greenpeace Wally always took a central role. He was passionate to share his longitudinal donor research. How to improve his donor communication by using the most appropriate vocabulary. He was always looking for improvements and innovations. Small and big.
Throughout his career Wally has influenced hundreds, if not thousands, of Greenpeace fundraisers with his knowledge and experience. That is a legacy that no value can describe.
It wasn’t very hard to find a few other fundraisers praising Wally’s career.
First Roger Craver (The Agitator) wants to share something:
“Each time you hear the terms ‘regular or monthly donor’, ‘sustainer’ and ‘direct debit’ give thanks for Wally.
I first met Wally in 1980 on a rainy Hamburg morning when our firm Craver, Mathews, Smith was working to expand Greenpeace fundraising in the U.S., Canada, the UK and Europe. My notes from that meeting: “He’s bright, iconoclastic and ready to think outside the box.” So true.
As the pioneer of the monthly, direct debit program that Wally launched in 1981 for Greenpeace Germany, his efforts have not only been a major financial anchor for Greenpeace worldwide, but a shining example for the rest of our sector.
Wally’s career is a spot on reflection of the saying, “He planted trees so others might enjoy the shade.” Job well done, Wally.”
Second, Amanda Briggs-Hastie (Greenpeace International):
“Wally is a true fundraising legend, a direct marketer extraordinaire and social scientist who has been teaching us all how to fundraise for more than 3 decades.
Long before this profession actually started acting professionally Wally was studying his supporters with a level of sophistication that made my mind boggle. I remember giggling when he told me about the meticulous testing he did with his “eye camera”.
There is very little Wally doesn’t know about his audience. He knows what they care about, what makes them angry, what they buy and what they read, he even knows what their houses look like (I’ve seen pictures). Through decades of being a social scientist studying his supporters he has learnt how best to engage people in Greenpeace Germany’s work and how to keep them as lifelong supporters.
He will be missed greatly from Greenpeace, for all the amazing things he has done for us. Auf wiedersehen Wally, we’ll probably still be talking of your achievements in another 3 decades!”
Third, Jan Oldfield (Greenpeace International):
“I have never had the privilege of meeting anyone else quite like Wally. Over the course of 30 years he built Greenpeace Germany’s fundraising from nothing – to a programme of 580,000 regular donors. He did it by deeply understanding his donors (who he talks of as others do friends and family), by remaining ever curious and on the look out for new ideas, and by really enjoying his work!
His passion and commitment to both the fundraising profession and to Greenpeace are immense. Without Wally, many thousands of Greenpeace campaigns would simply not have happened, many new offices would not have been supported, and countless fundraisers around the world would not have been inspired. Thank you Wally!”
Fourth and last, Lasse Kuenzer, the man with a BIG task: Wally’s successor as Fundraising Director at Greenpeace Germany.
“Four things come to my mind when I think about my first couple of months at Greenpeace and my handover-time with Wally:
Awe looking at such an incredible base of loyal supporters – the source of Greenpeace’s power and reputation in Germany.
Enormous respect for a person that has built this organization – and its fundraising program – from scratch.
Humbleness looking at a person who has dedicated more than three decades to the cause he believed and believes in: a green and peaceful future.
And: Personal gratefulness for the way Wally has welcomed me at Greenpeace and has been sharing his experiences and learnings.
It feels strange, probably for everybody involved, to see this “era” end – and yes, it is quite a legacy. But unfortunately the world is still not where it needs to be. So the journey needs to go on and we will work hard to continue building what Wally has started.”
I’d like to wish Wally all the best in his retirement. He has done more than a remarkable job, so please join me in thanking Wally for his contribution to our fundraising sector and making this world truly a better, greener and safer place.
Thank you Wally!