Like so many people of my generation I grew up with President Kennedy as my hero. The hero worship was even more personal because not only was I born in Boston, but my first home was on the same street as JFK’s first home. His address was 83 Beals Street in Brookline, Mass. and ours was two doors down on Beals Street. Our family admired the Kennedys so much we even had the same breed of dog, a Welsh terrier, to match the First Dog of the nation at that time. JFK inspired us in so many noble ways, highlighted by the call to public service. Though I have never held public office, I have loved every moment of engagement in the non-profit world. We get to see close up the very best behavior of fellow citizens as they generously donate precious gifts of time and money to improve the lot of others. Now, once again, our courage, compassion and willingness to sacrifice for the greater good will be tested, perhaps like it never has been before. JFK had many gifts, particularly finding the precise words to lift our vision. I’m thinking now of his commencement address at American University on June 10, 1963. He vividly conveyed how citizens all across the world are in this together and declared: “For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”
Shifting Into High Gear
Eskin Fundraising Training is a modest organization composed of me, my wife Andrea and our two cats. But I am now appreciating the advantages of being small. We can be nimble and move quickly and decisively to respond to new challenges and opportunities. This is a time of unprecedented challenge for the entire non-profit sector. Accordingly, we are implementing immediate changes in the delivery and content of our fundraising training and consulting. I feel so proud and lucky to be joined in our initiatives by some of the most talented and respected experts in their respective fields. For the time being all workshops and training will be conducted on a virtual/web basis.
Upcoming programs will feature:
* April 1st, 4 to 5:30 PM (all central time): The do’s and don’ts for rescheduling your events, with Dona Liston, Owner, Lambremont Events.
* April 8th, 4 to 5:30 PM: Communicating during a crisis, with Lionel Sosa, legendary pioneer in the worlds of PR, advertising and branding.
* April 15th, 4 to 5:30 PM: Competing in the new grant environment. with Arlene Siller, Founder, Ascend Nonprofit and Business Solutions
* April 22nd, 4 to 5:30 pm, Raising money in vastly different and trying times, with Marv LeRoy Founder, Institute for Philanthropic Excellence.
We’re in the process rescheduling several other programs, and y ou will be receiving invitations with information (Zoom webinar link) on how you can easily participate from your desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone. Anyone who comes to one of my workshops knows how much I embrace the concept of learning community. We all can and should learn from one another. We look forward to your participation and contributions to our learning community and responding to the crisis.
For people to receive invitations, I’m going to need their name, e-mail address, title and organization in my database
Fundraising from Home
Can fundraisers remain effective working from home? You bet we can! In fact, I believe we are strategically positioned to continue our vital roles in the discovery, cultivation, solicitation and stewardship of gifts of time and money from donors and prospects. Read my recent LinkedIn column addressing strategies and tactics.
Rising to the Challenge
There are so many uplifting examples of philanthropists, foundations, businesses and people next door opening their hearts, schedules and wallets to help others, we don’t know where to begin. We are confronting the invisible enemy one act of kindness at a time. Please let us know about stories we can highlight from your area. Here’s just one example that caught our attention. KEEN has pledged to provide up to 100,000 pairs, about $10 million in shoes, to the workers on the front lines and the families at home fighting through the crisis. Whether these shoes help a worker stay comfortable during a long shift or simply allow people to get outside to breathe in the benefits of nature while safely practicing social distancing, they feel compelled to share their strengths for the common good. To do that, KEEN is asking the public to let them know who they feel could use some help during this difficult time, and they will provide them with a new pair of shoes at no cost. This is nothing new for KEEN. Their vision has always been: We may be small, but we believe we can make a big impact when we work together by supporting non-profit partners on causes that align with our values.
What do you do if you’re contemplating, launched, in the middle of, or in the closing stages of a capital campaign with huge consequences for your non-profit? I turned to Marv LeRoy, President and Founder of the Institute for Philanthropic Excellence. Quite simply, Marv knows more and can communicate that knowledge on all things philanthropy better than anyone else I know. He founded the Institute in 2015 to provide inspiring campaign counsel to non-profits of all sizes and scopes to more fully live out their missions, including many of which couldn’t afford such expertise before. He has quickly built a national network of more than 40 associates who have supported the success of more than 100 non-profits and is fast approaching the half-billion-dollar personal benchmark in funds raised. We had a long conversation on new challenges for capital campaigns. He highlights the Institute’s traditional campaign model, with four distinct phases, and paying close attention to where the organizations are in their progress toward goals — factoring in all of the ever-changing external considerations of the moment. For instance, if the campaign is in the initial Infrastructure Building phase, outside economic factors have little influence on how those processes roll out beyond the obvious need to assess and discuss how they will impact the Lead Gifts phase soon to follow. In the Lead Gifts phase, where so much of the success of the campaign is determined, it is critical to recognize and fully appreciate how the economy will encourage or depress our most loyal and generous donors/prospects, and to then position individual outreach to the champions. He says that life is getting far more challenging in choosing pathways within down economies as campaigns move into the far-broader Public Phase, composed of much smaller gifts. It is during this phase that organizations need to give careful evaluation to outreach and messaging as relationships get more distant and communications become less personal. It might make more sense to use this moment in time to refresh messages and approaches while we await a return to a state of normalcy in our communities. Marv closed our discussion by emphasizing there is always something meaningful we can be doing every day to advance our resource development programs. A final upbeat message: Those non-profit leaders currently considering jumping into campaign mode, now is a good time to move forward. With a three to six-month ramp-up period, everything could be at the ready by the time COVID-19 is under control and the economy begins to recover later in the year. We’re excited about having Marv as our subject matter expert for the webinar scheduled for April 22nd.
The New Grants Environment
Many of you rely heavily on grants for a significant part of your funding, so I’m turning to a new friend and colleague, Arlene Siller, CEO of Ascend Nonprofit & Business Solutions(NBS), for sage advice and counsel on navigating your way through grant opportunities in the current environment. Arlene loves to raise money for good causes. A grant writing, fundraising expert, Arlene started her grant writing career over 25 years ago, securing $49 million in funding and reviewing grants in the scientific and biomedical research sectors. Six years ago, she transitioned her expertise and ability into the non-profit arena, where she raised over $35 million in four years, for a multi-state organization, and found her calling to serve non-profits. She launched Ascend NBS in 2019 and has produced robust results for non-profits. In 2019, they raised $2.9 million for multiple organizations helping advance their missions. Ascend NBS is well-versed in all phases of grant writing from research prospecting through to submission. Her advice for those seeking federal grants is to realistically assess readiness. Conduct a readiness assessment to apply for, and manage, federal grants by looking at your organization’s maturity across four major areas: Governance; Organizational Capacity; Policies, systems, and controls; and External Environment. She highlights several keys to success in securing foundation grants, but perhaps most important is to be absolutely clear on what foundations are looking for and making sure you are a good fit. Like with government grants, she suggests starting with a readiness assessment. Arlene emphasizes now is the perfect time for revisiting what and how you deliver your mission. Here are five critical steps non-profits must take to position themselves for change:
Learning from Masters
Since 2013, Amy Varga and the team at The Varga Group based in Portland, Oregon have guided over 100 non-profit clients in raising more than $90 million dollars through consulting services in capital campaigns, fundraising training, retreat facilitation, board development and leadership coaching. (Do yourself a favor and check out their website which is loaded with a ton of useful free resources to strengthen development operations.) Before launching The Varga Group, Amy held leadership positions with responsibility for strategic planning, fundraising, event strategy and planning, alumni and community relations at a wide range of institutions including Willamette University, Santa Clara University, Clackamas Community College and Habitat for Humanity. Reflecting on changes she’s observed in resource development, she emphasizes that great fundraising has always been about the same thing — connecting the dots between the impact the donor wants to make and the mission of the organization. Great fundraising has also always been more about listening than pitching. A favorite saying of Amy’s is: “Donors do not give to you because of your mission. They give to you because of theirs.” On the challenge of upgrading annual gift donors to major donors, Amy advises non-profits to break the addiction to donor acquisition. She points out that upgrading gifts is an inside job and to focus on robustly stewarding the donors you already have. Amy believes that smaller non-profits enjoy a competitive advantage over larger organizations when it comes to delivering a high touch, customized experience. Since they have relatively fewer donors and few major donors, a greater ability to achieve a personalized touch with each is well within reach.
The Past is Prologue
After fundraising I love history. What can we learn from the past? From Encyclopedia Brittanica: The influenza pandemic of 1918-19, also called the Spanish flu, was the most severe influenza outbreak of the 20th century and, in terms of total numbers of deaths, among the most devastating pandemics in human history. It resulted in an estimated 25 million deaths, though some researchers have projected that it caused as many as 40 to 50 million deaths . In the U.S. about 550,000 people died. The pandemic occurred in three waves. The first apparently originated in early March 1918, during World War I. Although it remains uncertain where the virus first emerged, it quickly spread through western Europe, and by July it had spread to Poland. The first wave of influenza was comparatively mild. However, during the summer a more lethal type of disease was recognized, and this form fully emerged in August 1918. Pneumonia often developed quickly, with death usually coming two days after the first indications of the flu. For example, at Camp Devens, Mass., six days after the first case of influenza was reported, there were 6,674 cases. The third wave of the pandemic occurred in the following winter, and by the spring the virus had run its course. In the two later waves about half the deaths were among 20- to 40-year-olds, an unusual mortality age pattern for influenza. (The photo shows temporary hospital in Camp Funston, Kansas, during the 1918-19 influenza pandemic.)
On the Bookshelf: The Long Game
Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked is an “entertaining and insightful” (The Wall Street Journal) history of a time when two great political opponents served together for the benefit of the country. Chris Matthews was an eyewitness to this story as top aide to Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill, who waged a principled war of political ideals with President Ronald Reagan from 1980 to 1986. Together, the two men became one of history’s most celebrated political pairings — the epitome of how ideological opposites can get things done. When Reagan was elected to the presidency in a landslide victory over Jimmy Carter, Speaker O’Neill was thrust into the national spotlight as the highest-ranking leader of the Democratic Party — the most visible and respected challenger to President Reagan’s agenda of cutting the size of government programs and lowering tax rates. Together, the two leaders fought over the major issues of the day — welfare, taxes, covert military operations, and social security — but found their way to agreements that reformed taxes, saved Social Security, and, their common cause, set a course toward peace in Northern Ireland. Through it all they maintained respect for each other’s positions and worked to advance the country rather than obstruct progress. At the time of political gridlock, Tip and The Gipper stands as model behavior worthy of study by journalists, academics, and students of the political process for years to come.
Pets Are More Valuable Than Ever
For a long time, we’ve keenly appreciated how much dog and cat companions enrich and improve the quality of our lives. This truth has never been so profound. We are blessed with Billie, a 10-year-old Tortie, and Joey, a six-year-old Maine Coon mix. They provide us with much needed relief from the stress of the world and the practice of social distancing. (You don’t have to keep social distance from your pet.) I’ve said it many times before but now with even more conviction, pet companions give much more to us than we give to them! By the way, we are well stocked with dry cat food, litter, and most importantly, treats. Helotes Humane Society — which did a wonderful job fostering our two cats — is still accepting applications for pet adoptions at this time.
Quiz : World Series Winners
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.