Remembering Bill Hautt

On Friday of last week, the world lost a remarkable individual, my friend and mentor, Bill Hautt. As many of you know, Bill was the visionary founder of The FOCUS Group, a man whose profound legacy in philanthropy has had a Kingdom impact on countless lives and ministries.

Bill began his career in the realm of education, where his passion for nurturing potential took root. As the Principal of Bridgemont High School in San Francisco from January 1975 to May 1982, he created an environment that emphasized growth, community, and academic excellence. During his tenure at Bridgemont, Bill recognized that to accomplish his work, he needed to raise funds, which led him in 1982 to start The FOCUS Group.

Under his stewardship, The FOCUS Group became a beacon for Christian nonprofits seeking guidance in securing major gifts and strengthening donor relationships. The core of The FOCUS Group’s philosophy was Bill’s own pioneering framework, Taking Donors Seriously®, a methodology that has since become synonymous with relational fundraising practices.

Even after retiring from The FOCUS Group ten years ago, Bill’s influence never diminished. His contributions to the field of fundraising were manifold and far-reaching.

However, for me, Bill’s most profound impact was personal. His mentorship was a guiding force, shaping not just my career but my entire approach to fundraising. He was a mentor in the truest sense—investing in people simply for the sheer joy of seeing them grow. Long before he recognized in me a potential leader to carry on The FOCUS Group’s mission, he invested his time and wisdom in my development. Bill’s commitment to nurturing others’ potential was unwavering, and his belief in the transformative power of relational fundraising was infectious.

As we continue to advance the mission of The FOCUS Group, Bill’s principles remain our guiding light. The Taking Donors Seriously® framework isn’t just a methodology—it’s a tribute to Bill’s life’s work, reflecting his integrity, his respect for the philanthropic partnership, and his deep understanding of how relational fundraising mirrors the very essence of God’s character.

Alec Hill, President Emeritus of InterVarsity, said, “Bill was both a mentor and a friend. Our relationship lasted long after I left InterVarsity. His wisdom made me reflect. His wit made me smile. His kindness touched my heart.”

Barry H. Corey, President of Biola University, said, “Bill was the first comprehensive campaign consultant I worked with, and I was skeptical about consultants. After just one meeting, that skepticism melted away and from then on I found in Bill an ally, a friend, a confidant, a strategist and a man who exhibited the highest of godly wisdom. I still look back on my season with Bill’s consultation as some of the formative years in my career working with generous donors. I am one of countless indebted to Bill, and I know his ripple effect will carry on widely through us all.”

Bill Hautt’s passing is a profound loss, but his spirit endures in the lives he touched, the organization he built, and the framework he established. He was more than a founder; he was an innovator, an educator, a mentor, and above all, a dear friend. We will miss him greatly, yet we take solace in knowing that his legacy will continue to inspire excellence and generosity in the field of philanthropy for generations to come.

For fun, here is a link to me interviewing Bill, 10 years ago, as he tells the story of developing Taking Donors Seriously®.

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