No one works in the non-profit sector either as staff or volunteer because they want something easy. They share the motivation of making a difference in touching, changing and saving lives. They embrace an awesome work ethic and tough challenges. Passion is the driver, and it’s an amazingly powerful force. All of us in the vast and diverse sector which includes more than 1.5 million registered organizations across the nation are facing challenges like never before. It will summon our commitment, persistence, innovation and flexibility. This is a dramatic moment for massive introspection for making non-profits more efficient, effective, and sustainable through every avenue possible, especially collaboration. Like so many others in the economy, we will be challenged to do more with less. Call me a boundless optimist, but I believe the sector will be up to the challenge. Sure, we will be pushed to the edge. But I have every confidence that the hundreds of non-profit staff, board members, volunteers and donors I’ve had the privilege to know and work with are up to meeting the huge challenges that lie ahead. Here’s my LinkedIn column with more thoughts on this subject.
We’re firmly committed to continuous improvement in our Non-Profit Empowerment Webinar series. This means highlighting timely topics and respected experts from a wide range of fields. The goal is to make our weekly one-hour sessions as meaningful, productive and enjoyable as possible for our non-profit partners who give us their precious time. In that spirit, we’re excited to announce that effective with the September 2nd webinar we’re moving to the Microsoft Teams Live Event platform. After several rehearsals, we’re convinced that the attendee experience will be even richer than before and will include single click access (whether you’re using Microsoft software or not), and instant access to the recording and slides. This partnership makes perfect sense since our in-person workshops that began on June 20, 2018 were so successfully conducted at Microsoft stores. Microsoft has a stellar leadership record in its commitment to corporate social responsibility and the proactive way it partners with non-profits to carry out their missions by making industry-leading solutions and services accessible and affordable. We’re also thrilled that Matthew Page, Training Manager for San Antonio, will be our featured webinar guest on September 2nd to talk about how non-profits can partner and collaborate with Microsoft. We also need to take this opportunity to express our profound gratitude to John Largent, CEO, Gameday Media, for the magnificent job he’s doing serving as our producer since our very first webinar.
Collaborating with BBS & Associates, Campbell Rinker released the latest edition of its Donor Confidence Survey. This study of 640 U.S. donors shows that confidence remains stable since April, despite surging COVID-19 cases in several states and ongoing protests in large cities. Campbell Rinker uses an index to measure donor confidence. The Donor Confidence Index for July 2020 stands at 91.0, slipping 0.7 points from 91.7 measured in April. In context, the Index for August 2018 stood at 97.6. Campbell Rinker’s Donor Confidence Index hit a recent peak in August 2018. The data suggest that donors are slightly more reluctant to keep giving than they were in April 2020. (that was just two months into the pandemic). And, while they still hope for a quick economic recovery, these hopes are now a bit lower than in April 2020. Despite this decline, donors expect the economy to recover much faster than they did nearly two years ago, in August 2018.
MacKenzie Scott, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ ex-wife and the world’s 13th richest person, has given away close to $1.7 billion since last year. When her divorce from Bezos was finalized, she joined the Giving Pledge, an agreement among some of the world’s wealthiest people to donate at least half their money to charity in their lifetimes or in their wills. Her ex-husband, the world’s richest person, is notably absent from this group, but he has substantially increased his charitable work over the past two years. Scott has donated to 116 organizations after working with a team of non-profit advisers since last Fall to identify the right causes. These groups include Black, LGBTQ and public health organizations, including Transgender Law Center, UNCF (United Negro College Fund), Howard University, Hispanic Scholarship Fund and Black Girls Code. Unless these organizations’ leaders requested otherwise, the donations were given upfront and with no strings attached to allow these groups to spend the money however they thought was best.
Harness Sales Savvy
One of the most rewarding features of sponsoring a webinar series is developing relationships with people who are genuinely cutting-edge in their particular disciplines. It’s also meant rekindling old friendships. A fine example is Jack Warkenthien, Founder and CEO of NextStep Solutions, a global leader in sales training, who in many ways is a kindred spirit. He is as fanatical about sharing the power of sales as I am about fundraising. He will be leading our August 26th webinar on applying the art and science of sales to non-profit resource development success. This is a profoundly rich topic. He recently shared a few “Jack Snacks” on areas he will address. He starts with the idea that fundraising is sales. Drawing from the many lessons in his best-selling book, Life’s A Sales Call: How To Succeed In The World’s Oldest Profession, he emphasizes that those of us in the non-profit sector selling donors, are making a contribution to our own good causes. We have the additional challenge of selling an intangible so we have to inspire donors on the advantages and benefits that cannot be touched or seen. This requires powerful storytelling. Jack is a proudly contrarian by nature. When we talked about our challenge of closing gifts, he flipped the equation around and stressed that we should view it instead as the beginning or opening of a new and mutually beneficial relationship. Jack knows the non-profit life intimately from personal experience. He founded and capitalized The Barnabas Society, an organization that raises and distributes money and resources to people in their greatest times of need, with all the funds donated anonymously. Do yourselves a favor and join us to benefit from the passion and energy of a magnetic sales dynamo. You can register here.
Responding to Crisis
COVID-19 relief funds at local United Ways and community foundations across the country raised more than $1.05 billion and distributed at least $589 million to financially vulnerable individuals and nonprofits leading the pandemic response in their communities as of June 30, according to the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI. Researchers identified 1,119 such organizations supporting COVID-19 funds, 244 of which are jointly supported in partnership with at least one other neighboring United Way or community foundation. Both the number of funds and the amount of money raised are estimates and likely under report the magnitude of this type of community philanthropy, as only about 60% of funds currently are reporting these numbers publicly. Organizations that would like to provide information about their COVID-19 relief fund and how community philanthropy has responded to the pandemic in their area can complete a form on the project website, which will be updated regularly.
Wisdom from our friends at the Bridgespan Group: Many community development financial institutions (CDFIs) are playing a critical role in enabling low-income communities and communities of color to weather the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. CDFIs offer donors a compelling option. They have a decades-long track record of serving communities that have the least access to banking and credit. In economic downturns, CDFIs have stepped up. For example, during the Great Recession, CDFIs grew their lending activities by 76%, faster than traditional financial institutions and with only slightly higher delinquency rates. And, while some CDFIs didn’t survive, the sector as a whole emerged from the recession relatively strong. Whether CDFIs are supporting small businesses, housing, or other community infrastructure, now is the time for philanthropies to give them some well-deserved attention, so they can support communities and sustain themselves through the near-term crisis and the longer-term recovery. As way of background, CDFIs are financial institutions that provide access to credit and other financial services to individuals, businesses, nonprofits, and communities. They grew out of the civil rights era when redlining and other discriminatory practices left many communities underserved by traditional finance. Today, there are over 1,000 CDFIs in the U.S, managing over $150 billion; combined, they would be in the top 20 largest domestic banks.
What Foundations Can Do
It’s certainly inspiring to watch funders everywhere stretching during this crisis. Foundations
Philanthropy for Everyone
Every community is proud of its local flavor of the spirit of sharing and caring. This is especially true in San Antonio, where per capita income and the corporate base might be limited, but citizens show their big hearts and consistently rally together for the greater good. Over the last six years, The Big Give, our 24-hour day of online giving, has generated more than $25 million for the non-profit sector, with gifts starting as modest as $10 each, and from many donors practicing philanthropy for the first time. We’re also proud of the way our non-profit sector comes together to support one another through The Nonprofit Council which hosts The Big Give. GiveGab currently works with 200 cities across the country that conduct online giving days. Each community day is separate from one another. Unlike GivingTuesday which is basically a hashtag non-profits use to promote their participation, local giving days like The Big Give are hyper-local and focus all marketing/advertising and messaging on local communities. Since San Antonio entered into shut-down in mid-March, all non-profit in-person fundraising events were cancelled, causing dangerous funding gaps. Our local United Way, in partnership with the San Antonio Area Foundation, created a COVID Relief Fund primarily funded by donor advised funds and large donations from local philanthropists. This was distributed through a grant making process and awards over the next couple of months. The Nonprofit Council made the decision to postpone The Big Give originally scheduled for March 26th and repurpose the website as a Nonprofit Relief Giving Site including over 600 non-profits — resulting in nearly $1 million in urgently needed funding. We can’t wait for the 2020 Big Give that will be celebrated September 10th and empower people from all different socio-economic backgrounds to respond to the current unprecedented needs.
On the Bookshelf: Robots Make Bad Fundraisers
As a fundraising trainer/consultant, I’ve enjoyed leading more than 100 workshops, webinars and board training sessions over the last two years. I think I know a lot about the art and science of fundraising. Reading Steven Shattuck’s new Robots Make Bad Fundraisers reminded me that we all should consider ourselves life-long learners. As a prolific writer and speaker, Steven curates Bloomerang’s sector-leading educational content, and hosts their weekly webinar series which features the top non-profit thought-leaders. The book is chock-full of practical and easy to understand take-aways that will improve the work of both professional and volunteer fundraisers in championing the missions of their respective non-profits. One of the many things I like is the way Steven emphasizes that high-tech and high-touch activities should reinforce each other, not compete. His content is consistently reinforced by solid research. And, he constantly reminds us that our goal in fundraising is nurturing lifetime donor relationships that grow deeper and closer over time, not single philanthropic transactions. In today’s new virtual fundraising environment, the book couldn’t be more timely. Don’t delay, read it and put it to work for your favorite non-profit. Steven will be our featured webinar authority on September 16th.
Wise Beyond His Years
A teacher can and should be proud when their students surpass them. I’m so proud of Callum Stewart, whom I was lucky enough to be matched with in the AFP-San Antonio mentoring program. Callum left San Antonio and gradated from the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, the world’s first school dedicated solely to the study and teaching of philanthropy. He currently serves as Associate Director of Development at the Indiana University Hamilton Lugar School, and teaches undergraduates at IU. We recently caught up and had a fascinating conversation on what can be taught in the classroom about fundraising, and what is most effectively learned in the field. Callum emphasizes that whether you are a seasoned or entry level development fundraiser, we currently find ourselves all in the same boat — wrestling with a global health pandemic, rising unemployment, and on the cusp of a global recession. The virtual fundraising is new to all of us, unless you work in international fundraising, in which the ask typically isn’t in-person because of geographical restrictions. Working from home and with donors reluctant to meet face-to-face, his thoughts include: (a) connect with international fundraisers for tips on engaging donors virtually, (b) go back to school to re-tool your online effectiveness, (c) reach out via LinkedIn to fundraisers that have raised money post-COVID for their advice, and (d) take a bottom-up approach and ask your new and younger colleagues how to best utilize technology for making a winning ask.
Quiz: Oldest Schools
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.