Culture of Gratitude

I’ve always said, if it doesn’t feel good to say the two magical words THANK YOU, you don’t belong in the fundraising profession. The goal of all non-profits, no matter the size and the mission, is to create a genuine culture of gratitude: The donor is the most important person in the world to us. Every representative of the non-profit — professional or volunteer — can and should on different occasions be part of a seamless commitment to expressing gratitude to those who share precious gifts of time, talent and treasure. I highlight the 7X rule: Donors should be thanked in seven different ways during the year for their gifts. It’s becoming harder and harder to be a donor, not just because of economic pressures, but because there are more and more non-profits and good causes to choose from. And it’s never a choice between the good and the bad, but between the good and the good. I’ve never liked talking about building “relationships.” To be successful and to sustain and grow donor gifts over lifetimes, we need to nurture friendships. For sure, we make donor engagement in our non-profits a priority, but we are also concerned about the donor as a whole person — their health, their family and other loved ones, and the challenges of life they must face every day like everyone else. That is the essence of a culture of gratitude. We love our donors because when they choose to contribute to our missions, they express personal passion for the work we do.

My Personal Thanks

I consider myself blessed that a remarkable circle of Andrea, family and loved ones, friends, colleagues and an ever-growing network of kindred spirits in the business of doing good works is empowering me to do precisely what I cherish doing with my time. Everything I’ve learned in my career and life leading up to this point has positioned me to tackle the very satisfying job of helping men and women from all different backgrounds to more effectively champion the noble missions of their non-profits and good causes and raise more money. That’s how we improve the world: by extending our hands — one by one — to assist those who are struggling and help them climb up the ladder of life. The best part is the opportunity for personal and professional growth. The Eskin Fundraising Training portfolio features this monthly newsletter (began in 1996), guest columns, a book, board training workshops, webinars, podcasts, and soon-to-be-released webcasts. Every time we carry out one of these projects, lessons learned and opportunities for improvement are recognized and adopted. Nothing tops doing good and enjoying every minute of it. So, my personal thanks to everybody in our learning community who make it possible for me to welcome each new day with a large appetite of enthusiasm and excitement. At the top of the list, I have to recognize my late parents (featured in this photo in 1969 attire). From my father I learned how to feel great when others succeed and from my mother, I learned the joy of entering conversations. Our thanks to Bloomerang for featuring our article, Why I Love Fundraising.

2023 State of Non-Profits

Center for Effective Philanthropy explored the state of non-profit relationships with both foundations and individual donors, how non-profits are perceiving current challenges, and their recent and projected financial results. Key findings:

  • Finding No.1: Many non-profit leaders report an increase in trust from funders and are experiencing changed practices, such as streamlined applications and reporting, removal of restrictions, and receipt of multiyear funding from foundations. In addition, most non-profits report an increase in dollar amounts given by at least some individual donors.
  • Finding No. 2: Issues related to staff — including burnout, filling staff positions, and retaining staff– are the top challenges facing non-profit leaders.
  • Finding No. 3: Despite a challenging economic context characterized by high inflation, most non-profits experienced either a balanced budget or surplus in the most recently completed fiscal year, and the majority anticipate at least breaking even or having a surplus this fiscal year.

Giving Communities

Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy research finds that the share of Americans donating to charity fell among many racial and ethnic groups over the past two decades. Key findings from the study include:

  • Giving rates — The share of U.S. households that participated in charitable giving decreased among all racial and ethnic groups studied, but there were variations in the timing and extent of these declines. Age, education, gender, marital status, income and wealth all played roles in giving rates. Specifically, religious giving rates declined between 15 and 25 percentage points for all groups between 2000 and 2018. For example, Hispanic American households saw an 18-percentage-point decrease from 2000 to 2018. As for secular giving, giving rates also experienced an overall decline across all groups between 2000 and 2018, ranging from a decrease of 6 percentage points among Asian American households to a decrease of 24 percentage points among American Indian households.
  • The decline in giving rates can be partially attributed to economic factors, including recessions. The study observes differential rates of giving by race and ethnicity before and after the Great Recession. For example, while giving by American Indians decreased by 11 percentage points pre-recession, the decline lessened to 7 percentage points following the recession. In contrast, Asian American giving rates rose by 8 percentage points before the recession but declined by 21 percentage points post-recession — suggesting that times of economic downturn influence philanthropic behavior by race and ethnicity in different and complex ways.
  • Non-economic factors such as a decrease in interpersonal trust also help explain the decline in giving rates. Interpersonal trust showed a gradual decline over time among all racial and ethnic groups to varying degrees. In particular, the interpersonal trust among Hispanic Americans declined more substantially than other groups. About 26% of Hispanic Americans agreed that others can be trusted in 2000, while only 8% agreed in 2022.

$52 Billion and Counting

National Philanthropic Trust (NPT) research finds that total grant dollars awarded through donor-advised funds (DAFs) has more than doubled in the past five years. It found that in 2022, the value of grants from DAFs to charities around the world totaled $52.16 billion — an increase of 9% year-over-year and 119% since 2018. Contributions to DAFs also grew 9% to $85.53 billion, and the number of DAF accounts rose 2.9% to 1.95 million.

The total value of DAF assets stood at $228.89 billion in 2022, up 85 % since 2018, despite falling 1.1% due to market volatility. The aggregate grantmaking payout rate declined to 22.5% from the record 27.3% set in 2021 but remained well above the typical 5% annual payout of private foundations. Moreover, the report found that while DAF assets in 2022 amounted to just 20% of those held by private foundations, the total value of DAF grants was equivalent to 52.3% of those from private foundations.

Year-End Push

Imagine an hourglass positioned front and center on your desk and ever so swiftly the grains of sand are emptying and approaching the end. This applies to your opportunities to take advantage of by far the most generous giving cycle of the year. Some 25% of annual giving occurs in December and 10% occurs in the final three days of 2023. Bluntly, professional and volunteer non-profit leaders don’t have a moment to spare. We hope you benefit from our article, 10 Ways to Boost the Year-End Nonprofit Fundraising Push featured in Major Gifts Ramp-Up.

Disaster Relief

An online survey conducted by the Harris Poll on behalf of Vanguard Charitable, found that 3 in 5 American donors (59%) (defined as those who donated to charity in the past 12 months) gave half or more of their total monetary donations last year to charities providing disaster relief. This marks a notable increase from the results of a similar survey conducted by Harris Poll in 2022 which found that only 37% of American donors had given half or more of their charitable contributions to disaster relief efforts. But the new survey also suggests that donors encounter challenges when trying to respond charitably to disasters. More than half of Americans (52%) agree that when a crisis (e.g., natural disaster, humanitarian crisis, economic crisis) occurs, they do not know where to find reputable information on how to direct a monetary donation to support those in need. More concerning, 65% of Americans agree that when a crisis occurs, they do not have funds available to give right away.

Holiday Giving

A new Ipsos poll conducted on behalf of BMO reveals that three quarters (74%) of Americans admit they will be buying fewer holiday gifts this year in response to inflation and the rising cost of living. Only six percent (6%) plan to increase holiday spending this year. Despite getting buried by many economic snowstorms over the past couple of years, almost two-thirds (63%) of Americans are not deterred from planning to give back, during the upcoming holiday season. Americans most commonly plan to give back by contributing money to a cause (35%), volunteering time (23%), and shopping with brands whose values align with theirs (23%). Helping people in need (64%), supporting causes they care about (54%), and teaching their children about the importance of giving (31%) are among the most commonly cited motivations for giving back. Notably, the youngest demographic (18–24-year-olds) are among the most inclined to give back, during the holiday season.


Guided by our crackerjack guru, John Largent, CEO, Gameday Media, who has produced more than 5,000 podcasts, our Nominate Your Non-Profit North Star series is off and running. We want to spotlight the personal stories of inspiring leaders representing as much non-profit diversity as possible — geographically, mission-wise, in leadership roles and much more. We’ve released three podcasts so far. You can listen to them here. These three programs will be released in the next month or so:

  • Episode No. 4: “Renaissance Man” featuring David Ibarra, Founder, Ibarra Foundation
  • Episode No. 5: “Idealism Through Service” featuring Dan Baker, President & CEO, National Peace Corps Association
  • Episode No. 6: “The Maestro Next Door” featuring Peter Bay, Music Director & Conductor, Austin (Texas) Symphony Orchestra

We still need your help in saluting unsung heroes who might be colleagues, friends, neighbors or others you’ve seen in action. Here is the simple nomination form. Please let us know who deserves recognition in your corner of the non-profit sector.

Bookshelf: Connectiplomacy

It’s an honor just to know an Amazon best-selling author, but it is a real treat to speak with her week by week as she painstakingly commits to the huge task of researching, writing, editing and proofing a much needed guide on how the 8 billion people in about 200 different countries on the planet can come closer together for mutual benefit. That’s exactly what my good friend, brain trust and learning community member extraordinaire, Margi Helschien (pen name Marjorie Hope) has magnificently accomplished. In Connectiplomacy, she teaches the steps we can take to connect to the world around us. Be inspired by learning that, although our world has problems and we have cultural differences, we are not so different after all. Utilizing the tools presented in the book we will learn the steps we can take to help promote the building blocks of world connection. Each small step that we take to connect to others will open doors to new people, cultures, and experiences. Our “smile” is a universal communicator. It expresses to others that we are friendly and open to new ideas, because in every situation “people are people.” Margi is uniquely qualified to author this book. She graduated from Salisbury University and obtained post graduate certifications from the London School of Economics, and Harvard University. As a competitive gymnast, she owned and operated a large gymnastics school, embracing the synergy between mind, body, and spirit while incorporating the importance of being “fit for life” and that “more is possible.” In 2016 she founded America Connected, an international non-profit organization teaching people around the world how to connect through cultural diplomacy. Her new book puts a shining crown on her head as an inspiring thought leader in using our differences to connect.

Celebrity Corner

Charlize Theron remembers the precise moment her role in philanthropy clicked into place. The Oscar-winning actress and UN Messenger of Peace, had been talking with community leaders in her homeland of South Africa about how they could tackle the AIDS epidemic there. “We heard them say, ‘We know what to do, but we just need the resources to do it,’” Theron said at the Town & Country Philanthropy Summit in Manhattan. “And I thought, ‘Oh, wait, I can do that.’” As a result, she created the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project (CTAOP) in 2007 to fund community leaders in South Africa who were already working on the AIDS epidemic and then expanded to gender equity issues. “Our philosophy is always listen and they’ll tell us what we need to do and then we help with that,” Charlize and her non-profit commit to a values-driven approach. It places people first and shares in our interconnectedness as humans through the spirit of Ubuntu: “I am because you are.” CTAOP also values kindness, continuous learning, integrity, authenticity, and community building. Although the geographic scope of CTAOP has expanded, South Africa remains the primary focus of the foundation’s work. 

Quiz: Favorite Gifts

Maybe we’re on tighter budgets, but the holiday shopping season is in full swing, and thanks to Google’s Holiday 100, it’s easier than ever to figure out what gifts to buy for everyone on your list. Google’s Holiday 100 is an annual list of the most-searched gift ideas throughout the year across various categories such as beauty, toys, and electronics. It makes for the perfect inspiration board for holiday gifts. Match the five most searched gift ideas with their respective ranking (No.1 is the most searched). Answers are shown on the bottom of the page.

1. Away luggage a. No.1

2. Dewalt cordless drill b. No. 2

3. Dyson Airstraight c. No. 3

4. Gaming headset with mic d. No. 4

5. Lululemon Everywhere Belt Bag e. No. 5 

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

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

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