Capital Campaign Letter from Academy Leadership

Dear Academy member,

The Academy has become an effective and respected defender of professional diplomacy at a time when American diplomacy faces unparalleled challenges — at home and abroad.  We write to seek your help for a major campaign to put the Academy on a sustainable financial footing.  Before approaching Academy members, the Academy’s board has all contributed or pledged support.  With the help of our development committee, co-chaired by David Welch and Linda Thomas-Greenfield, and assistance from the Academy’s constant, friend Carol Sisco, we have already raised over $470,000.  Now let me explain why we are asking for you to help us make this campaign the success it needs to be for the Academy to be a sustainably active champion for American diplomacy.

We have grown from an organization that held some good programs to one that has expanded its work in defending professional diplomacy and explaining to Americans the importance and substance of it.  We have maintained our non-partisan stance, supporting the administration when justified, such as in cutting special envoys and the removal of the second deputy secretary, and opposing when we believed we had to. We mounted a significant and effective campaign on Capitol Hill against the nomination of an unqualified candidate to be the Department’s Director General.  We—and we can say “we” because the Academy was the only organization to take on this fight—forced the withdrawal of the nomination.  When a senator’s office called Ron, speaking on behalf of the White House, to make sure we would not oppose the candidate if he were nominated to another position, we knew we had won a grudging respect – and the argument.

We have weighed in with the Congress on budget and other matters while maintaining our perspective that a strong State Department must have a strong Civil Service, Foreign Service and non-career appointees as well as representatives of other departmental partners such as foreign agricultural and commercial officers.

Our expanded efforts to explain the importance of diplomacy include recurring programs with several universities.  We are starting to branch out to engage high schools.  We have two new podcasts and are expanding our marketing plans to reach new audiences outside the coastal bubbles.  But, and it is a big “but,” we are doing this on a shoestring.  We now need to expand financially to keep going.

We start each year with an operating deficit.  We fill the hole for each year, but our historical level of withdrawals from our working capital and reserves will eventually exhaust them.  Further, every expansion of programing requires finding new funding which often requires a year or more to acquire from philanthropic or other sources.  Diplomacy is a stepchild for big donors; no major foundation has it in their giving criteria; we cannot look to those like Carnegie or Ford to solve our problems.  In short, we must look to ourselves to put the Academy on the firmer financial foundation needed to sustain its important work in support of American diplomacy.

That is why we are making this extraordinary appeal to our members and other supporters of American diplomacy:  help us raise $3 million in three years. We want to raise $1.5 million in donation commitments that will be paid over three years s and another $1.5 million in planned giving legacy bequests that would be paid to the Academy over a longer period. We know that is an ambitious target, but it is possible.   The proceeds of the campaign will not divert the Academy from its commitment to lean staffing and expense sharing such as our shared office space.  Instead, a successful campaign will provide the resources needed to ensure small operating deficits are covered and provide seed money needed to develop new programs that will be funded by individual donors, foundations, or other institutions.  And the Board pledges to the Academy membership that all funds raised in this campaign will be invested prudently to preserve their value and managed carefully to ensure they are used only for the purposes intended.

We all receive appeals to support worthy causes.  But this will be the only appeal you will receive from an organization dedicated to supporting and safeguarding the profession to which we devoted much of our lives.  With the success of this campaign, the Academy can sustainably continue its work of explaining the role and importance of diplomacy to the American people, as well as to current and future Administrations and the Congress.  Attached you will find a primer on different ways to give, including donations from required distributions and appreciated stock.

One of your colleagues will be reaching out directly to you to follow up.  We hope you will respond generously.