Practice, Practice, Practice

As much as anything we emphasize role-playing the ask as an essential part of our fundraising training. Why are so many passionate non-profit board members and volunteers scared of asking for a gift? Typically, it’s just because they’re afraid of the unknown. Too many haven’t experienced an ask themselves. They might’ve experienced the more passive act of merely receiving a gift from a donor, but that is very different than purposely soliciting a gift. When we actively solicit a gift, there’s much more of an opportunity to influence the amount, timing and purpose. During our recent Happy Learning Hour (co-sponsored by MassMutual South Texas and advisor Fred Steubing), we highlighted illustrative ask scenarios for a variety of non-profits. Leaders representing Big Brothers Big Sisters, Impact San Antonio and the School of Dentistry-UT Health San Antonio provided abbreviated versions of their solicitations. In each instance, I played the role of the prospective donor and provided common points of pushback or resistance. As a learning community, we thought through possible responses, reinforcing my basic premise: The answers are almost always in the room. A winning solicitation strategy isn’t complicated. After sufficient cultivation, request a face-to-face meeting, succinctly present your case for support, and request a specific amount for a specific purpose. Then remain absolutely silent and let the donor respond. I’m a strong advocate of making the ask pretty early in the meeting to allow enough time to respond to questions and concerns. And like anything else important that you do, you need to prepare, and this means rehearsing the ask.

Hartman: Don't Be Afraid To Dream Big

We were very fortunate to have the visionary philanthropist behind Morgan’s Wonderland and Morgan’s Inspiration Island speak at our Non-Profit Empowerment Series at Microsoft last month. Our learning community of non-profit professionals and volunteers had the opportunity to be inspired and learn virtually every uplifting lesson that philanthropy teaches. Inspired by their now 26-year-old daughter, Morgan, who was born with cognitive and physical challenges, Gordon Hartman and his wife Maggie established The Gordon Hartman Family Foundation to pursue their dream of helping children and adults with special needs. Now in its 11th season, Morgan’s Wonderland and Morgan’s Inspiration Island stand out as national models in providing positive opportunities for individuals with special needs and their families. The park has welcomed more than 1.8 million guests from all 50 states and 76 other countries. Since 2005, personal and foundation gifts have totaled approximately $60 million and assisted 600 non-profit agencies for the betterment of people with special needs. This provides a profound teaching moment: It’s not just permissible to dream and dream big, it’s ultimately your greatest strength in advancing and achieving noble missions. Read my LinkedIn post for more on this subject.

The Billion Dollar Club

The Chronicle of Philanthropy reports that five individuals or couples donated at least $1 billion to philanthropic causes in 2019, with Michael Bloomberg topping the list, According to the magazine’s 20th annual Philanthropy 50 survey, the top five donors — Bloomberg ($3.3 billion); the late Barron Hilton ($2.4 billion in funds bequeathed to the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation after his death in September); former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and his wife, Wendy ($1.3 billion); Walmart heir Jim Walton ($1.2 billion); and the late Thomas Lord (more than $1 billion to three universities and the Cleveland Clinic) — gave a total of $9.3 billion in 2019, a figure that topped the giving of all 50 people on the list in 2018. Bloomberg’s 2019 giving included a total of $1.8 billion to his alma mater, Johns Hopkins University — the largest-ever gift to an academic institution in the United States — fulfilling a commitment he made in 2018 that will enable Hopkins to permanently commit to a need-blind admissions policy. According to the Chronicle, the top 50 donors on this year’s list gave 4.42%of their wealth to philanthropic causes, on average — a significant increase over the 2.59% average of the past five years — while only 21% of the individuals on the list are ranked among the nation’s 400 wealthiest individuals.

The Icon

Kirk Douglas passed away in February at 103-years-old. His career in Hollywood spanned seven decades and spawned scores of hits. Not so well known is his inspiring philanthropic leadership. Kirk and Anne, his wife of 65 years, founded The Douglas Foundation in 1964. It stands as one of the entertainment industry’s largest and oldest private philanthropic institutions. To date it has given away more than $50 million to various charities and institutions including his alma mater St. Lawrence University, funding a scholarship for minority and underprivileged students; Westwood’s Sinai Temple, home of the Kirk and Anne Douglas Childhood Center, the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City, and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, where their money funded a robot that performs surgery on kids (which the hospital aptly named “Spartacus.” Also included in their philanthropic pursuits are two of Anne’s favorite initiatives: the construction of 408 playgrounds in the Los Angeles school district and the Anne Douglas Center for Women, a homeless shelter. By far, the biggest donations Kirk and Anne made were to the Motion Picture and Television Fund. The MPTF’s mission is to support the “entertainment community in living and aging well, with dignity and purpose, and in helping each other in times of need.” In the early 90s, the couple raised $2 million to build Harry’s Haven (named after Kirk’s dad), a specialized unit for people suffering from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. In 2012, the couple donated another $20 million to MPTF. Then, in 2014, they found out that Harry’s Haven was overcrowded, so they gave another $15 million to expand it.

Unsung Heroes: Jasmin Dean

One of the things that Andrea and I enjoy the most about our work is meeting a diverse group of people, different in every way possible, but sharing the common denominator of wanting to make the world better through the various causes to which they are so devoted. A few are fortunate enough to be able to make very large gifts and are deservedly saluted in the media. But most move forward in relative obscurity, and that doesn’t deter them one bit. One such inspiring example is Jasmin Dean, who, pardon the cliché, is a beautiful lady both inside and out. I was introduced to her by San Antonio uber-volunteer Barbara Williams (who I proudly point to as one half of a dynamic grandmother/granddaughter duo in our learning community). Jasmin is co-founder and Executive Director for Celebrate Dyslexia. When she her husband Jeff, an orthopedic surgeon, heard the word “dyslexia” for the first time in a school conference room referring to their son, they felt so alone and didn’t know where to go for answers.  Her mission quickly came into view: She was ready to do whatever was necessary to facilitate positive, strength-based conversations, not just for her son, but for the entire community. Jasmin is an insatiable learner, intuitive networker and absolutely fearless — in other words, she has all the attributes necessary to be an effective leader in the non-profit world. Woody Allen said, “The world belongs to those who show up.” Jasmin always shows up for our learning communities, listens intently, asks great questions and make new friends. She passionately shares the dyslexia story, pointing out essential facts that most of us don’t realize, such as that dyslexia is a learning disorder that touches one out of every five people. She has already achieved remarkable results. Her organization has partnered with Whiteboard Exhibits to present a traveling exhibit, “Beautiful Minds: Dyslexia and the Creative Advantage,” that will tell the story both in the DoSeum locally and throughout the nation. It will be exciting to watch Jasmin’s steady emergence, as she, like so many other inspiring members of our learning communities, make a bigger and bigger difference in the world.

Meeting with Global Leaders

While there may be cultural and government regulation differences, non-profits around the world share much in common in challenges and opportunities. Through an invitation from the San Antonio Council for International Visitors, it was my privilege to meet with 11 distinguished NGO leaders from the Near East and North Africa visiting San Antonio as part of the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program. This is the State Department’s premier professional exchange program. San Antonio was the last stop on their visits to several U.S. cities. I presented my favorite topic, 10 Simple Fundraising Lessons, and gave each member of the delegation copies of my book. The spirited discussion and question-and-answer session, facilitated by interpreters, reinforced their interest in learning from our resource development principles, strategies, and best practices. It was a lot of fun. Many thanks to our good friends from the San Antonio Council for International Visitors, Cecilia Cross and Tania Kayumova, for making the meeting possible.

Political vs. Charitable Fundraising

For a while I’ve been thinking about comparing and contrasting political and charitable fundraising. And the challenges of crossing over from one arena to the other. Fortunately, I’m able to turn to a brilliant friend and mentor in Houston who is vastly accomplished in both types of fundraising. Barbara Radnofsky ran two state-wide campaigns as the first woman in Texas history to win nomination as the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2006, and also the first to secure nomination as the Democratic candidate for Texas Attorney General in 2010. She enjoyed a diverse trial law practice at Vinson & Elkins from 1979-2006, allowing her many opportunities for pro bono and charitable work forming, fundraising, and assisting many wonderful charities on diverse matters including co-founding the Houston chapter of the National Association of Urban Debate Leagues and a world-wide AIDS charity led by the discoverer of the AIDS virus, and assisting the Dead Sea Scrolls Foundation in ongoing ways. She authored the nonpartisan A Citizen’s Guide to ImpeachmentShe is of the mind that political and charitable fundraising share much in common, with the upbeat attitude that anyone with a genuine interest can learn to do them. She views fundraising as a straightforward skill which can be honed with practice. The approaches used depend on your personality, inclinations and passions. The universal need to be respectful in human contact remains a constant; for example, we must thank prospects for listening and donors for giving. It should be fun — albeit hard — work. You will benefit and grow as a person; meet and befriend wonderful people; and learn to avoid charlatans. Other than compliance/legal requirements, she doesn’t think that much is different. In both, she says, work with causes and people you respect and admire and learn and follow the rules. Before leaving this subject, we want to point out a rather surprising conclusion of a Blackbaud study that showed that donors who gave to federal political campaigns in 2012 gave 0.9 percent more to charitable organizations in 2012 compared to 2011, and donors who did not give to political campaigns reduced their giving to charities in 2012 by 2.1 percent. These data findings held true across all sub-sectors as well as the demographic segments of age range, household income, and head of household gender.

DAF Explosion

We’re constantly being reminded of their colossal and growing presence and impact. Grant making from donor-advised funds soared in 2019 as steadily rising markets fueled growth in these tax-advantaged vehicles. Fidelity Charitable, a public charity that operates independently of Fidelity Investments, reported that grants from its donor-advised fund (DAF) accounts rose more than 39% to $7.3 billion last year from the previous record of $5.2 billion in 2018. More than 155,000 charities received funding. Meanwhile, the independent National Philanthropic Trust (NPT), based outside of Philadelphia, says donors in its accounts granted more than $1.67 billion last year, a 62% surge from $1.08 billion in 2018. The grant dollars went to nearly 63,000 U.S. and international charities, a 35% boost from 2018. Fidelity Charitable noted that donors are consistent and committed to their favorite charities: 74% of grants in 2019 went to a charity the donor had previously supported, demonstrating that strong relationships are often built between nonprofits and donor-advised fund donors.

Dominating the Airwaves

Enjoying the political ads? You ain’t seen nothing yet! eMarketer estimates that U.S. digital political ad spending will hit a record high for the 2019/2020 political cycle, crossing the $1 billion mark for the first time ($1.34 billion), as a larger number of highly engaged voters are expected to donate to the candidates of their choice in this year’s presidential race. This election cycle’s digital political ad spend is more than three times the amount spent during the last presidential cycle, primarily due to a large number of Democratic presidential primary candidates vying for the party’s nomination. The candidates have spent millions to list-build and acquire small donors, the latter of which was a prerequisite for participation in the Democratic National Committee’s primary debates. Billionaire candidates Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer invested significant sums of money into their own campaigns and prioritized digital ads in their ad mix. Incumbent Donald Trump also continued to campaign regularly after assuming the presidency, starting his reelection efforts armed with a significant amount of cash on hand to spend on digital advertising.

On the Bookshelf: The Long Game

In a world obsessed with page views, followers, likes, and clicks, keeping up with the competition can feel like a frustrating game where the rules are constantly changing and you’re always playing catch-up. In his new acclaimed book, Playing the Long Game, Sam Kyle offers refreshing advice for breaking away from the pack: Play a different game! Through personal vignettes and battlefield tales from some of the most accomplished innovators in business and sports, Sam makes the compelling case that the best way to build long lasting, enduring success is to forfeit the small wins today (that your competition is clawing after) for massive returns tomorrow. By following the practical guidelines laid out in this book, you will learn how playing the long game will give you the skills and confidence to reap outsized rewards for your efforts, not only in business, but in your health, happiness and personal relationships.

Book Update

Don’t be afraid to toot your own horn! My mother warned me not to be bashful. So, I want to share three updates on my first book, 10 Simple Fundraising Lessons:
* A big word of thanks to international leadership coach and fundraising trainer Marc Pitman for his thoughtful review.
* Inside Charity, one of the nation’s most trusted non-profit news sources, featured this story:
As a reminder the book is a quick and easy read and is intended to equip both professional and volunteer fundraisers with skills to replace fear of asking for a gift with comfort and confidence. Consider taking advantage of quantity discounts and purchasing it for your boards and key fundraising volunteers.

Quiz : POTUS and Favorite Foods

he most famous house in the country comes with a giant perk: A personal chef and staff that rivals any in the world. You are what you eat. How well do you know the Presidents’ favorite foods as researched by Taste of Home? Match the following Presidents with their favorite food to answer this question. .  Answers are at the bottom of this page.
 
1. FDR                        a. Chicken Salad
2. Jefferson                 b. Gingerbread Cookies
3. JFK                         c. Mac and Cheese Pudding
4. Lincoln                    d. Scrambled Eggs
5. Wilson                    e. Seafood Chowder 

Stratagems is published monthly by Jim Eskin, Founder of Eskin Fundraising Training, LLC. We offer workshops and customized training sessions for board members, staff and volunteers of non-profit organizations of all kinds and sizes. For details about our services and information, or to find out how to schedule a training session for your organization, visit our website. Follow our events on Facebook, and read more articles about philanthropy on our LinkedIn page.

Jim Eskin

Jim Eskin, Founder

Eskin Fundraising Training

Email: [email protected]
Cell: 210.415.3748
www.eskinfundraisingtraining.com

ANSWERS TO THIS MONTH’S QUIZ: 1=d, 2=c, 3=e, 4=b, 5=a

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