Social Suicide: Show Me the Money

Roger Capote, Senior Vice President of Corporate Services at CAN Community Health (CAN), oversaw the event planning team hosting the 20th Anniversary CANDance revenue in the fall of 2019. The event was inspired by the hit television show “Dancing with the Stars.” At the affair, affluent philanthropic community members competed for two championship titles, “Dance Champion” and “Fundraising Champion.” That year was designed as the Tournament of Champions and winners from previous years returned to compete for the ultimate trophy. To add more excitement, CAN announced a new Youth Initiative. The funds raised at the 2019 CANDance revenue were intended to jump-start the program which would have provided critical outreach services in local communities.

Among the champions was Shelly Martin. She was a socialite who owned several hotels and night clubs in Siesta Key. Martin was very well- known in the area and had an extensive network of wealthy associates that could be potential donors at future fundraisers. The morning of the event, Martin approached Capote and verbally committed a pledge of $250,000. This was the largest donation that CAN had ever received at a fundraising event. With a donation of this magnitude, Martin automatically won the “Fundraising Champion” title.

Typically, a large donation is vetted, and the donor would be asked to sign a Donation Commitment Form which served as a legally binding document that guaranteed payment (Exhibit 1). However, with all the chaos of coordinating the event, Capote did not have time to provide the form, validate commitment, verify funds, or coordinate the logistics of payment. Both parties agreed to accomplish this in the morning.

In the weeks following the event, Capote made numerous attempts to contact Martin and collect the funds. However, she was unresponsive, and he suspected she would not honor her pledge. Sadly, what Capote thought would turn out to be an incredible event turned into a donor relations nightmare and the fate of the Youth Initiative hung in the balance. Should he have pursued Martin to recover the money or considered other alternatives?

Authors: Scott Breitengross, Scott Campbell, Roger Capote, Leigh Cowan,  Adilah Everett-Long


Breitengross, S., Campbell, S., Capote, R., Cowan,  L., & Everett-Long, A. (2020). Social suicide: Show me the money. Muma Case Review 5(4). 1-17.