Customarily, parents encourage their children to learn proper etiquette and chivalric sensibility. At the Bates household, steeping oneself in the art of fundraising was just another tacit obligation.
“Our family has always been involved in fundraising,” said William Bates, veteran Chautauqua Fund volunteer and newly assigned team captain. “It’s part of my family DNA.”
Bates can remember accompanying his mother in 1954 as they walked door-to-door, soliciting on behalf of the WQED public radio station. Bates recalled being a class volunteer for his prep school for many years, running their capital and annual fund campaigns. He also served as co-chair of his 2014 college class reunion.
The family tradition and zest for fundraising has been passed on to his daughter, Allison Wannop, who set a record in raising funds during middle school and also has been a fundraiser for her law school. An ambitious 8-year-old granddaughter, Adelaide Bates, raised the most money in her first- and second-grade classes throughout her school for the “Jump Rope for Heart” campaign.
“This is just a continuation of what I’ve done my whole life,” Bates said.
In the early ’50s, Bates got his first taste of Chautauqua when he visited from Pittsburgh, competing in various sporting events at a private camp down the lake. It wasn’t until the early ’70s that Bates become reacquainted with Chautauqua, returning every year since with his wife, living comfortably at the Carey Cottage Inn.
As team captain for the Chautauqua Fund this year, Bates will be heading a seasoned group, an alchemy of both former and newer volunteers. But Bates doesn’t see his new position as demanding or authoritative. For him, it’s simply an extension of his prior duties, an emphasis on being a helping hand.
“I’m working for them,” Bates said. “In whatever ways I can help out with prospects. I’m there to assist in any way I can.”
Moving from volunteer to team captain was a natural transition for Bates, alluring with respect to both its fun and distinct responsibilities. Always looking for a chance to contribute to Chautauqua Institution, Bates manages his time accordingly.
He’s a lay reader and chalice bearer at the Amphitheater and Episcopal services. He also holds a position on the fundraising committees for the Chautauqua Women’s Club scholarship, Capital Campaign and Annual Fund. On Saturday mornings, he participates in group discussions of short stories. And occasionally, he acts as an umpire for softball games.
“I don’t play golf,” Bates said. “I play tennis a little bit. Bike a little bit. But the first thing I ask myself is, ‘Am I contributing enough?’ And that’s where I get my enjoyment. The Institution can’t exist without its volunteerism and philanthropy. So I just make sure I’m aiding in the longevity of Chautauqua’s mission.”