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If it’s money that you want for a charity, you could do a lot worse than having Jeffrey Katzenberg, Sherry Lansing or Tom Sherak doing the asking. Each has shown just how effective a single person can be in rallying the industry to their causes.
DreamWorks Animation CEO Katzenberg, 60, got his first glimpse of a real master fundraiser at work 20 years ago when Universal chairman Lew Wasserman invited him to his office. On arrival, the pair immediately drove to the Motion Picture & Television Fund campus in Woodland Hills, which provides independent and assisted-living housing for retired members of the entertainment industry. Katzenberg, who now sits on the MPTF board, says Wasserman’s tour of the facility had him hooked “from the very first encounter with it.”
The secret of a fundraising pitch, he says, is “telling people a good story. It’s about articulating and explaining the why and where the money is going and how it changes people’s lives.”
Lansing, 67, says the seminal moment in her philanthropic work came when her mother succumbed to cancer at 64 in 1985. “I remember thinking the only way I could honor her memory was by trying to help fund scientific research that would someday lead to a cure,” she says.
As founder of the Sherry Lansing Foundation and a co-founder of Stand Up to Cancer, which has raised $180 million, Lansing says the secret of her fundraising work is: “You have the same passion for your cause as you do for making a movie. And never taking no for an answer.”
In 2001, Sherak was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, which he continues to fight. But that hasn’t slowed him down. As chair for the annual MS Dinner of Champions gala, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences president has raised more than $43 million in the past 18 years for multiple sclerosis research and programs. It’s a cause close to his heart: His daughter Melissa, 38, was diagnosed with MS when she was 15.
As for his fellow master fundraisers, Sherak, 66, says: “With Jeffrey and Sherry, you never want to say no to these people because they’re there when you need them. I look at that as the catalyst for why people care — you need my help, I’m going to try and help.”
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