Riverside, CA-“With the force of a speeding train, he directs, coordinates, cajoles, and provides a great deal of love to several hundred Adventist universities and schools, hospitals, and medical centers. He has the magnificent countenance of a swan—to the view of all, majestic and calm. But below the surface, paddling like crazy!” writes Jerold Panas of Milton Murray is his book Born to Raise, What Makes a Great Fundraiser; What Makes a Fundraiser Great.
Milton Murray received an honorary doctorate of humanitarian service from La Sierra University at Commencement June 13, 2004. “This is a great honor. A great event in a persons life that he obviously did not anticipate, plan for, or expect,” says Murray. “You realize that you apparently have done something that got the attention of the system.”
“The real value of receiving an honorary doctorate is reduced to helping academicians and educational institutions sit up and take notice that philanthropy has a very important role in education,” adds Murray.
Murray has dedicated his professional life to medical and educational advancement. He established several public relations and development programs, and capped his career by serving 20 years as Director of Philanthropic Services for Institutions (PSI) at the Seventh-day Adventist world headquarters in Washington, D.C. It was with PSI that he helped nurture philanthropic endeavors among more than 100 Adventist institutions internationally.
“My claim to fame is that I am a nobody,” says Murray. “Being a nobody was how I got things done. I would whisper suggestions and write memos urging the right people.”
Murray was hired right out of college with Loma Linda University as their first Public Relations professional in 1949. He had 10 interviews including the board chair, hospital administrators, and several deans. He was only hired for four months, the first two part-time and he also worked part-time with the San Bernardino Sun for two months to supplement his income. He worked at Loma Linda University for 12 years.
While at Loma Linda University Murray organized a 50th anniversary celebration. “I was glad we did what we did,” says Murray. “But we goofed. We should have had a committee of people raising money for the event. The chairman then called and named me Director of Development to start in 2-3 weeks.”
Murray says what has changed the most is the resources for philanthropic professionals. “Today there are 35 books, all good in varying degrees that could help any young person today,” says Murray.
One of the many challenges that Murray established about 25 years ago was the Business Executive Challenge to Alumni or BECA. The General Conference Office of Education said that they needed $50 million—right then. Murray said that amount was a little out of his league and then went to attend a meeting with Oakwood College and the Bush Foundation in Atlanta, Georgia. The meeting talked about challenge grants with alumni and how the process worked.
“Adventists were zero in alumni giving. I went up to the speaker and asked how much money I needed to get something like this started for 10-12 colleges,” says Murray. The man said he needed $2.5 million and Murray went back to DC with an idea is his head to set this up at each Adventist college. “I started asking several organizations for funds including the General Conference and the larger union offices. A secret to fundraising is to get nipping at small chunks.”
Murray went to several other donors and raised the $2.5 million starting BECA. In 1979 when BECA began the Adventist colleges were probably raising $400,000 from alumni in total says Murray. Now they are bringing in $200-$300,000 at each institution annually from alumni.
“I’ve enjoyed being a nobody,” says Murray. “I have never been a Vice President. I’m a creator of VPs.”
During his professional career, Murray personally directed programs that raised some $68 million. And thanks to his guidance and leadership, Adventist institutions were raising about $50 million in annual voluntary support at the time of his retirement.
Murray received the highest honor bestowed to fund raisers by the Association of Healthcare Philanthropy—the Si Seymour Award—in 1980. The National Society of Fund-Raising Executives (NSFRE) named him outstanding Fund Raiser in 1991. And he also received the Henry A. Rosso Award from the University of Indiana in 1992. Murray is the only person to obtain all three philanthropic awards.
Murray’s life and career were the focus of the 1992 book The Makings of a Philanthropic Fund Raiser: the Instructive Example of Milton Murray. In 1998 the United States Postal Service issued the “Giving and Sharing” postage stamp featuring philanthropy. This was the culmination of 27 years of effort and advocacy for the project by Murray.
Murray is a 1949 graduate of La Sierra University in Riverside, CA.
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