She Planted Trees So Others Could Enjoy The Shade
This morning our friend and long-time colleague Polly Agee, 61, will be buried in the National Memorial Park in Falls Church, Virginia
Personally we mourn her death (and have had quite a good wake telling “Polly stories”), but we most of all want to note her passing because she contributed so much to the small, but critically important and uniquely back-biting branch of American fundraising focused on social and political change. A contribution for which all fundraisers, regardless of politics or discipline, should be grateful
For nearly 10 years in the early days (‘70s) of the liberal advocacy movement through the late 80’s Polly was in the foxhole with us. Developing systems that are still used to this day…developing training systems still used to this day…and developing an intolerance for the mediocre that seem to have been all too recently forgotten.
As the Senior Vice President of Craver, Mathews, Smith & Company, Polly helped us launch and build many of the liberal advocacy organizations that are household names today. The National Organization for Women, National Abortion Rights Action League, Greenpeace, The Cousteau Society, and Common Cause. While at CMS she worked on dozens of United States Senate campaigns for Democratic candidates and the presidential campaigns of Morris Udall, Edward Kennedy and John Anderson. Not to mention the Democratic National Committee, The Democratic Senatorial Committee and the Democratic Congressional Committee.
Never one to suffer fools lightly Polly had a temper, but one tempered by an iron-willed discipline to get the most out of every opportunity and every person she came in contact with. And she succeeded. Today, there is a generation of seasoned direct response fundraisers in the advocacy and political arenas that are tougher and wiser because of Polly.
Polly “retired” ( her own words) in the early ‘90s. AND… then went on to start several new careers. Her energy went toward women’s equality and democracy. As Ellen Malcolm, the founder of Emily’s List puts it:
"She always had infectious enthusiasm for women candidates and so many progressive causes. And if there was ever a set-back or special challenge, Polly was ready to give a helping hand. So many of the elected Democratic women we see in public life benefited from Polly’s generosity and help.”
She trained a generation of fundraisers, but wasn’t one bit willing to stop there.
In her final years she went into life coaching and established New Directions Life Coaching which helped, trained, and mentored many.
When a pioneer dies we all should pay attention — and also pay homage.
Polly, honest to God, we’re paying attention. Don’t get mad. We’re just saying “Thank You!”
Roger and Tom
P. S. A memorial service for Polly will be held in early August. We’ll keep you posted as to dates and times.