By Cheryl Hall
This article was originally published in The Dallas Morning News
Mary Templeton and a sisterhood of business playmakers have proved that it’s no longer a man’s world when it comes to tapping the goodwill of major donors.
Thursday night at The Star in Frisco, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas will announce that it has pushed past the finish line for its $100 million endowment called the Unite Forever Campaign.
This milestone comes three years ahead of schedule and in the midst of the pandemic — and thanks in large part to Templeton, the campaign’s linchpin and the 63-year-old wife of Rich Templeton, CEO of Texas Instruments, and her female cabinet of Terri West, chair of the philanthropic foundations of TI and United Way; Charlene Lake, United Way board chair and chief sustainability officer AT&T; and United Way’s CEO, Jennifer Sampson.
“We’re at $100 million and change — and quite a bit of change,” Sampson said last week. “This sets up the foundation for the future in perpetuity.”
These friends in fundraising have done things in a ladylike way.
Call it steel magnolia handshakes vs. good ol’ boy arm twisting.
Take, for example, a party on Palm Sunday hosted by Templeton and West at the Templetons’ spread in Parker. They invited two dozen retired TI execs and their spouses who have been longtime United Way supporters.
The endowment goal was in reach, and the two women, who say they hate asking people for money, thought it would be a great way to reunite with some top TI’ers they hadn’t seen in two years and close the final gap in a festive setting.
The hostesses had worried about holding it on a religious holiday but didn’t realize that it was also the day of the final round of the Masters golf tournament.
Mary sent out a tongue-in-cheek apology for this transgression and assured invitees that TVs would be tuned to the tournament.
“I was worried about Palm Sunday and overlooked the real religious event of the day,” her mea culpa addendum read. “I’m surprised it isn’t posted to my Google calendar automatically like Christmas. Humbly yours, Mary.”
The Ultimate Closer
One couple had a family conflict, so they put up a $250,000 matching gift as restitution for their absence. Kevin and Carol March asked West and Templeton to spread the word about their challenge grant, calling it their “friendly shakedown with an incentive.”
The matching money was gone within days. But some attendees were less quick to commit.
West applied a little peer pressure with an email to the laggards, including Rich Templeton.
Mary knew nothing about the email, so Rich forwarded it to her.
“Terri said, ‘You can match this person and give this amount. You could stretch it and match these people. Or you could go for the Big Kahuna and give this amount,’” Mary recalled. “I thought, ‘Well, good for you, Terri!’ It was very cute and very smart.”
Rich went all in with a million-dollar gift — added to the tens of millions the Templetons have given to United Way over the years.
“Terri is the glue who is always grounded and keeps the ball moving,” Mary said. “She’s probably one of the best fundraisers I’ve ever worked with. Even though she doesn’t like it, she’s good at it. She’s been to my house for another organization, and I gave money to that one, too.”
The United Way of Metropolitan Dallas endowment started out in 1994 with a $6 million gift from TXU.
It languished in relative obscurity for 15 years, while United Way concentrated on its annual campaigns. In 2009, a handful of Dallas’ most prominent philanthropists were worried that United Way didn’t have a true endowment, so they quietly began to make multimillion-dollar commitments that collectively added more than $20 million.
So adding nearly $80 million to the endowment seemed like a stretch goal when the late, legendary philanthropist Ruth Sharp Altshuler and retired Exxon Mobil executive Ed Galante formally took up the quest seven years ago as part of the nonprofit’s 90th anniversary celebration.
Dallas Cowboys great Roger Staubach was the third co-chair, lending his iconic name and support to the endowment drive that would be completed in time for United Way’s centennial in 2025.
The endowment campaign was approaching the halfway mark in money and time frame when Altshuler died in 2017. Templeton stepped in for her dear friend.
“I knew I had big — and distinctively different — shoes to fill,” Templeton recalled. “Ruth wore Louboutins, and I usually wear Uggs. But we shared an enduring passion for the United Way and the community.
“How do you say no when you know that Ruth said yes?”
Galante, who has been the behind-the-scenes strategy orchestrator from the get-go, said Templeton was the perfect choice to take over as the fundraising face and point person.
“I’m the who-are-you guy?” Galante said last week. “Ruth, Roger and I would be kibitzing when someone would walk into the room. They knew Ruth and Roger, so they’d fawn all over them. Then they would turn to me and say, ‘Who are you?’”
Sampson calls him the North Star. “Ed saw the possibilities in what others thought impossible.” She’s taken to heart Galante’s mantra, which is a Thomas Edison quote: “Vision without execution is hallucination.”
These four female friends in philanthropy are all tied to organizations with deep United Way roots. AT&T and TI executives have led five annual campaigns since 2011. TI co-founder J. Erik Jonsson was the chair way back when. Anne Chow, CEO of AT&T Business, is wrapping up back-to-back stints as the annual chair.
In recent times, these corporate behemoths have gotten down into the weeds with programs and new initiatives that have brought these services to a much broader sector, particularly in southern Dallas.
And all are mothers with supportive husbands.
The bond between Mary and Rich is particularly special.
Mary is paralyzed from the chest down after a horrendous accident while she and her family were bodysurfing in shallow waters during a Christmas vacation in Maui nine years ago. A rogue wave clapped her on the back, threw her onto the concrete-like beach and the current dragged her back into the water, where she was rescued by Rich.
She knew immediately that her back was broken.
But Mary has proved to be our Unsinkable Molly Brown.
She and Rich chaired United Way’s 2018-19 annual campaign, leading the annual fund to record heights of $52.7 million.
Back then, Rich called Mary his stealth weapon.
She’s no secret today.
Mary has energized the endowment campaign as its co-chair over the past five years.
AT&T’s Lake said Mary is “unbelievably generous” and speaks the unvarnished truth.
“The emperor couldn’t have gotten a step out of the castle if Mary had been there. She is so direct in a pure and beneficial and authentic way.”
Ladies who lunch with purpose
Templeton said there is something about having lunch with girlfriends. “The conversation that I’m going to have with a group of women is different from a conversation that I’ll have in a co-ed group. I don’t know a nice way to say that.”
Casual chitchat leads to deep thinking and an ability to listen to their often eclectic points of view.
When Mary, Terri and Jennifer broke bread together at the Templetons’ house before meeting with me on Zoom, the conversation included crafting, kids, flowers, dieting, hairdos and salad in a Mason jar — topics that Mary said would have sent Rich fleeing from the room.
Templeton contrasted that with some of the male-dominated table talk she has to endure.
“It’s not that I don’t like to talk about the NBA Finals and who is getting drafted, but I don’t get energy from that kind of conversation.”
“This is not a complacent group that’s satisfied with doing things the way they’ve always been done,” Sampson chimed in. “We look for ways to be better, more impactful and do things we’ve never done before, even if it’s scary or seems impossible.”
As chair of United Way’s board, Lake has led successful efforts to diversify the people sitting around United Way’s board table or attending via Zoom calls — not just by gender but by color, ethnicity and backgrounds.
“Having all women is no better than having all men,” said Lake, who couldn’t make it to Mary’s for lunch but did our interview on Zoom. “Many men have helped get us to where we are.”
She said she walks in lockstep with Sampson. “But in a sense, I act as Jennifer’s peripheral vision,” Lake said. “I make sure she sees things that are coming in from the sides.”
West said Lake provides this reality-check counsel for her and Templeton, too.
“From time to time, some of us will be a little quick to jump in and be emotionally driven,” West said. “Charlene brings that thoughtful questioning to the table.
“In the beginning, I don’t know if I truly believed that we could get to $100 million in this fast-track timeframe,” West said. “But with the support that everyone brought to each other, we saw that you can do something you didn’t think you could do.”
When the $100 million is fully secured, the endowment will spin off $4.5 million each year to bolster United Way’s education, income and health initiatives in North Texas.
As the endowment grows, so will its 4.5% contributions to United Way’s annual operating budget, which stands at less than $12 million.
Only Seattle’s United Way will have a larger endowment, having been the beneficiary of an $85 million kickstart donation from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Steven Williams, CEO of PepsiCo Foods North America, will take over as chair of United Way’s board in June when Lake steps down. PepsiCo is another United Way stalwart.
Williams said he has marveled at watching this sisterhood up close and personal.
“It’s an amazing clique,” he said. “They’re prolific, so they don’t mind doing the work. I’ve been involved with a lot of charity organizations throughout the last 20 or so years, and I can tell you that they really and sincerely are geared up to make a big difference in the community.
“Not only have they delivered the results of beating the goal of raising $100 million, but they’ve done it in an environment of crazy volatility and uncertainty.
“The biggest lever that you have in fundraising is the connectivity of being in a room with people. And they did this during COVID,” he said with an appreciative laugh. ”Think about the power of that, seriously.”
Lake is 61 with a son, a daughter and two grandchildren, 2 and nearly 4.
Her grandson and granddaughter make her think even more about the future and what lies ahead for them.
“That’s a great reason why this endowment is so important,” she said. “This is going to lift up the whole city — make us better, stronger and improve that fabric of society in Dallas. That should be important to all parents and grandparents as our children outlive us to enjoy those rewards.
“It’s a perfect topic to consider for Mother’s Day or Father’s Day.”
Cheryl Hall, Business columnist. Cheryl, a journalism graduate of SMU, has covered business for more than 45 years and gets her phone calls returned. She’s won numerous awards including several Katies from the Press Club of Dallas and a lifetime distinguished achievement award from the Society of American Business Editors and writers.
This article was published on: May 18, 2022