Fundraising is in uncharted territory. For as long as we can remember, face-to-face meetings have been the gold standard in nurturing relationships with donor prospects, especially when it came time to ask for major gifts. The realities of a COVID-19 world requiring social distancing has turned everything upside down. While we might be tempted to throw out what we know about principles, strategies and best practices that had worked so well in the past, I’m insisting on not arriving at conclusions so hastily. Instead, Eskin Fundraising Training is championing a hybrid model of fundraising which blends proven approaches from the past and adapting them to a virtual environment. We are seeing ample evidence that this hybrid approach works. We invite you to review my primer on “The 10 Truths of Fundraising’s New Frontier,” which was recently published on LinkedIn. I’ll repeat a recommendation I’ve shared repeatedly during the COVID-19 crisis: Don’t take your foot off the fundraising pedal. Continue the discovery, cultivation, solicitation and stewardship of donor prospects with a heightened sense of conviction and urgency. Your noble missions deserve no less!
Gateway to Collaboration
More than ever it’s essential for the non-profit sector to come together and explore new and different ways to support each other’s success, rather than compete. The hard truth is entering conversations in which you are genuinely open to listening, understanding and appreciating someone else’s thinking and perspective is instinctively challenging. All of us are all too eager to tell our stories or quickly rebut what we hear. At best, there’s the tendency to take the easy way out and simply meet in the middle. That’s why we’re so excited to feature Barbara Radnofsky, a good friend and mentor, in our webinar series. She has led a distinguished career as attorney/mediator in bringing individuals and parties with differing viewpoints together to slowly but surely find common ground and paths to jointly move forward. Barbara is also authoring a new book, Let’s Talk: 10 Steps to Peaceful Problem-Solving. I’ve had the privilege of reviewing a draft and writing the foreword for this amazingly friendly and easy-to-understand guide. She’ll be sharing a sneak peek of the contents during our September 30th webinar, 4 to 5 p.m., central time. Everyone will benefit immensely from hearing her. You can register here.
As someone who started their career and spent 20 years with agricultural employers, I was proud to see that, for the first time in Gallup’s 20 years of tracking Americans’ views of various business and industry sectors, farming and agriculture is the clear leader. The former top-ranking industries — restaurants and computers — remain in the top four, with the grocery industry rounding out the group. Meanwhile, the pharmaceutical industry’s image has improved modestly since last year, and it has yielded the “worst rated” distinction back to the federal government. This year’s rankings reflect significant changes in the ratings of six industries, three of which are delivering vital goods and services to Americans during the pandemic. These three — healthcare, farming and pharmaceuticals — are all rated more positively this year than in 2019, although where they rank on the list differs.
I’m sorry but there is no other way to express it: Opportunity is knocking! Over the next 25 years, Baby Boomers will pass on more than $30 trillion in wealth to the next generation — and their decisions on who to leave it to are being decided right now. The COVID-19 pandemic has spurred a rapid rise in estate planning and planned giving as people are reminded of their own mortality, as well as a drop in cash gifts due to economic uncertainty. Coupled with recent changes to the tax code that have affected annual gifts, planned giving represents an opportunity for non-profits to more than make up for losses and support their mission for years to come. FreeWill’s second annual Planned Giving Report analyzes data from more than 80,000 wills created with their free online will-writing tool over the past year. They highlight key trends across age, gender, marital status, geography, and other key metrics like pet ownership. They’ve also included a brand-new section detailing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on planned gifts and non-profit teams. As expected, the higher the value of an individual’s assets, the more likely they were to give. However, the likelihood for individuals with a lower asset value estimate to make a bequest was not insignificant. Of will-makers with less than $200,000 in assets, 12% still chose to leave a bequest. This suggests that, when presented with an accessible way to make planned gifts, many non-profit supporters are eager to give.
What makes a good consultant? For the record, no one could be more biased than I am. I’ve enjoyed being a fundraising training/consultant over the past two years, I collaborate with other consultants across the country, and many have become good friends. When I was in higher education advancement leadership positions, I interviewed and hired consultants on several occasions. To get to the bottom line, as we enter a time of profound enormous financial challenges, I predict consultants will be in stronger demand than ever because non-profit boards will need their wisdom and experience in making gut-wrenching decisions. All of this is why timely research by sociologist Leah Reisman, who recently earned her Ph.D. in Sociology from Princeton, was of enormous interest. Her dissertation “Strategizing for Social Good: How Consultants Shape the Nonprofit Sector,” is based on 180 interviews with consultants, client non-profits, and funders, and 15 months of participant observation at three strategy consultancies, including contribution to 10 client projects. She was kind enough to discuss a few of her conclusions, emphasizing the focus was on strategy not fundraising. She points out that the alignment of consultant and client styles and expectations are critical to successful consulting engagements. “This entails both clarity and agreement on the client’s needs and consultant’s deliverables, and alignment between the consultant’s personality and work style and the client’s communication style and the types of advice they found most compelling.” This finding was reassuring: Many consultants provide more work than they were compensated to provide and went to great lengths to accommodate non-profits’ budgets.
On the Bookshelf: We Need to Talk: A Memoir About Wealth
We Need to Talk: A Memoir About Wealth by Jennifer Risher gives voice to an experience millions share, but no one discusses: what it’s like to be rich. The book is an honest, personal story that explores the hidden impact of wealth on identity, relationships, and sense of place in the world. Too often, we link net-worth to self-worth and keep quiet about how our finances make us feel. Money is a taboo subject. She provides a catalyst for conversation that demystifies wealth, gets us talking on a personal level, and confirms we are ninety-nine percent the same. In 1991, at 26, Jennifer took a job at Microsoft and got lucky. She met her future husband, David, and the stock options she was granted were worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. His were worth far more. Years later when David joined a small, unknown start-up called Amazon, she got lucky again. They both did. They were in their early thirties and had tens of millions of dollars. It was amazing. The freedom and benefits were obvious. But after growing up saving her pennies and being wary of the rich, Jennifer was embarrassed to have joined their ranks. She wasn’t worried about being liked for her money; she was worried about being hated for it. People looked at her differently. She didn’t know how to ensure her children stayed motivated and not entitled, was shocked when a friend asked for $25,000, discovered philanthropy isn’t as straightforward as just writing a check, and grappled with the meaning of enough. For years, she didn’t share her dilemmas with others for fear of being judged. No one talks about money–but we should.
Hooray for Mr. Eskin
Longtime Philadelphia Sports Radio 94WIP anchor Howard Eskin (no relation) has become a bit of a wilderness man during the pandemic, growing a Whitmanesque quarantine beard that energized his legs. Eskin, 69, walked 1,103 miles in the run-up to the Eagles’ 2020 season. The number represents the distance between Philly and Tampa, where Super Bowl LV will be held at Raymond James Stadium. He raised money to support the hunger relief organization Philabundance and the Brandywine SPCA. Starting in July, he tried to walk 14 to 15 miles a day and completed it in August. The comparisons on Twitter are obvious: Eskin morphed into Forrest Gump.
Quiz: Highest Paying Jobs
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.
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