Remembering John Haydon

February 12, 2020

I remember the first time I met John Haydon over 10 years ago. We were both checking into the hotel where the NTEN conference was being held.

In my mind, I’m utterly starstruck thinking “OMG! It’s John Haydon! THE John Haydon!”

Author of Facebook Marketing for Dummies, digital marketing guru, and already an all-around general rock star in the nonprofit sector.

And, John being John, he couldn’t have been nicer. Sweet and genuine and funny and utterly human.

But it wasn’t until a few years later that I really got to know him. One day, out of the clear blue, my phone rang. His name showed up on my caller ID, and I was overcome with that starstruck feeling once again. I couldn’t help it.

“John Haydon! Calling ME???!!!”

It was indeed THE John Haydon. Hours after I answered his call, our chat was still going strong. And it seemed as though we would never run out of things to talk about.

We talked about the state of nonprofit marketing. We talked about our kids, me about my two daughters, John about his son, Guthrie. We talked about music. We talked about various people in the nonprofit sector we both knew. We talked about Curb Your Enthusiasm. We talked about navigating the online space.

Probably the first thing John asked me was “Do you prefer Pam or Pamela?” “I prefer Pamela,” I replied. And he always remembered.

Over the ensuing years our friendship grew and we collaborated on a number of online classes. John’s trainings were invariably loaded with great content, generous, and always at a level that the most novice nonprofit staffer could understand. “This stuff” — marketing, communications, digital strategy — seemed to come so easily to him. But he was always respectful and gentle with his students. He never talked down to them.

Throughout our friendship, I knew John as a scathingly brilliant marketer and trainer. Still, it was his wholehearted generosity, a tenet of Buddhism, that made me and many others love John so much.

When John learned that he had a particularly rare form of cancer in 2017, he started a private Facebook group and included nearly 400 friends and family members to share his journey.

He documented everything along the way, good and bad.

In late 2018, we all got word that John’s cancer was in remission when John posted “The cancer is almost completely gone. Victory is imminent!”

And then cancer returned. With a vengeance.

I spoke with John in late 2019 about coming into Boston for a visit. And then life intervened. The holidays, the year-end fundraising crunch.

Unimportant things.

Until suddenly it was clear. I knew I had to see him. The prayed-for miracle was not coming.

I’ll treasure those last three hours spent with John for the rest of my life. We talked about how Buddhism saved John’s life and what it meant to him. We talked about cancer and death and life. We talked about his new book.

What I witnessed was a man who was physically greatly diminished but whose wise and generous spirit still shone like a beacon.

In one last gesture of generosity, before I left him last week, John hugged me hard and tucked a set of his worn prayer beads into my hands.

John Haydon passed peacefully this past Saturday.

Our mutual friend Beth Kanter had this to say:

He passed with the rising of the snow moon, full moon, super moon.  A special celestial event.  We will all miss him and a great loss to the nonprofit marketing field.

I feel incredibly privileged to have known John as a friend and a colleague.

Buddhists have a saying: “Even death is not to be feared by one who has lived wisely.” It cannot be denied that John Haydon lived wisely. In love, in wisdom, and in great generosity.

Goodbye friend. I can’t thank you enough. But I can keep on loving you for the rest of my life.


In what turned out to be his final gift, John has gifted our sector with the soon-to-be released book, Donor Care: How to Keep Donors Coming Back after the First Gift. To get on the list to be the first to know when the book is released, click here.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Laurel February 13, 2020 at 1:28 pm

what a beautiful story about an utterly amazing, kind, generous man. He will be so missed.

Jennifer Ott February 14, 2020 at 8:03 am

What a lovely tribute to a wonderful man, Mary.

Kim Kalamashaka February 29, 2020 at 2:17 pm

A wonderful trubute. God Bless

Kalamashaka February 29, 2020 at 2:19 pm

A wonderful tribute.

Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: