EO's Accelerator Program On the Airwaves
My name is Kevin Burkart. I don’t think I understand myself that well, but these things I do understand: I idle high. I’m selfish. I’m immature. I’m ferociously independent. I don’t believe in teams. I like to be the center of attention. Those are my confessions. At the same time, I’m compassionate, generous, creative, dependable and pervasively, but cautiously, optimistic. I’m also a goal-setter.
I’m going to do 300 skydives in one day. I did 100 skydives in 2008, raising US$48,000 for Parkinson’s Disease (PD). In 2010, I tried for 200 jumps, but made only 150 (though I did raise US$78,000). Next year, I’m trying for 300 jumps in a single day. If I get good weather, train, hydrate and nourish properly, I can do it. If I can make 300 jumps, it’ll be a great comeback. And then I’m done.
My dad has PD, so this is all for him and everyone living with PD, right? Wrong. I’ve realized it’s for me. Here’s why: Everyone said I couldn’t do it. So, what’d I do? I just did it. It’s like being an entrepreneur. The forces against you at the beginning are immense … until you succeed. Then everyone joins in. And they thought it was easy. Geez, why didn’t you do it sooner?
Not being a professional fundraiser, I’ve enjoyed the journey these past four years. Instead of asking for money, I ask for help. Asking for money is begging. Asking for help—saying “I need help”—is exposing who you are. People like that, and they open their wallets. Why would a local Native American tribe give me US$10,000, twice, for an effort that supports the awareness of a predominantly elderly, Caucasian-male disease? I don’t know. I just told them I needed help.
I’m part of a new breed that rolls their eyes at charitable golf tournaments and walks. These events do raise money, but often not much, and little awareness is realized. So, folks like me are skydiving, eating worms, biking in extreme ways … all to raise funds and awareness for a cause. I call it charitable leadership. No more sitting on boards haggling over what color the t-shirt is for the next walk.
To succeed in charitable leadership, like in business, you have to get over the hump at the very beginning. Get past the naysayers. Show them what you can do when you do something others say you can’t do. It’s a great pleasure when you excel, especially when it’s for a good cause. At the end of the day, you’re the entrepreneur. You’re the leader. Lead.
Kevin Burkart is the founder of StepStoneGroup, Inc. E-mail Kevin at