Fundraising is Now a Necessity

When my wife Andrea and I launched Eskin Fundraising Training June 1, 2018, our motivation was to combine two passions: Empower non-profit board members, volunteers and staff to overcome the fear of asking for gifts, and to venture out on my own. I had just completed three fulfilling higher education advancement management positions that gave me the privilege of working with a broad cross-section of business and community leaders. These leaders were fearless in virtually everything they had to face in their lives, with the exception of raising money for favorite organizations and causes. We concluded that, more than anything else, this was a fear of the unknown. Simply put, we as practitioners could do a better job of demystifying the art and science of fundraising. More than 100 workshops and webinars later, we are more convinced than ever that the men and women who lead non-profits, lifted by the Jeffersonian virtues of a knowing head and an honest heart, can and should be effective fundraisers.  

What has changed dramatically in the last two years is that fundraising can no longer be a spectator sport for board members, administrators and other non-development staff. It’s become a hands-on necessity for everyone within the organization in the fiercely competitive COVID-19 philanthropic environment. Everyone must pull their oar or suffer undesirable consequences. Like businesses, and perhaps even more so, non-profits are being challenged to do more with less. Non-profits don’t have a board seat or staff member to waste. Read my recent article published on the website for more on this timely subject.

Digital Learning Community

Please keep your calendars clear on Wednesdays, 4 to 5 pm, Central time, for our Non-Profit Empowerment Webinar Series. Our promise is to provide content and subject matter experts to help non-profits navigate their ways through uncertain and choppy waters. We are grateful to the wonderful response we are getting from a wide range of authorities and experts on advancing organizations and developing resources during the COVID-19 crisis. Once you’re in our Constant Contact database you will receive weekly invitations to these free webinars and be invited to join our ever-growing learning community. Below is a preview of some of the sessions that are coming up this summer, with many more to be scheduled. Also, we welcome your suggestions on topics and speakers. And, by all means, invite others to sign up for our e-newsletter and workshop invitations. As a learning community, we’re confident that we can answer virtually any question that arises.

* Wednesday, June 24: Making Virtual Major Gift Asks: Marv LeRoy, President & CEO, The Institute for Philanthropic Excellence
* Wednesday, July 1: Non-Profit Staffing Solutions: Sally Bryant, President & CEO, The BRYANT GROUP 
* Wednesday, July 8: Boards Stepping Up to the Challenge: Abbie J. von Schlegell, CFRE FAFP, Principal. a. von schegell & co
* Wednesday, July15: Fundraising: What Has Changed, What Hasn’t: Larry Vaclavik, Managing Principal, Dini Spheris
* Wednesday, July 22: Successful Virtual Events: Dona Liston, Owner, Lambermont Events

Reassuring 2019 Results

American individuals, bequests, foundations and corporations gave an estimated $449.64 billion to U.S. charities in 2019, placing it among the highest years ever for charitable giving, according to findings in Giving USA 2020: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2019. Total charitable giving rose 4.2% measured in current dollars (2.4% adjusted for inflation) over the revised total of $431.43 billion contributed in 2018. Measured in current dollars, giving in 2019 reached the highest dollar total to date. Adjusted for inflation, total giving reached the second highest level on record, just slightly below the all-time high dollar amount achieved in 2017. The name of the game remains giving from individuals, which comprise 69% of total giving, and when combined with requests and family foundations, a whopping 88%. Researchers emphasized that giving increased substantially in 2019, ending the decade on a high note. While it’s too soon to tell what that will mean in the uncharted territory we all find ourselves in today, these estimates provide an important baseline for understanding where giving stood at the outset of the current crisis. Giving USA, the longest-running and most comprehensive report of its kind in America, is published by Giving USA Foundation, a public service initiative of The Giving Institute. It is researched and written by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI.


We asked Laura Fredricks, an attorney-turned-dynamo philanthropic advisor, for practical advice for non-profit leaders on raising money during these unprecedented times:

1. Simple communication always wins the day: Keep your calls, letters, e-mails short and to the point and always with a Call to Action
2. Donor Advised Funds: With $2.5 billion given to non-profits in each of the first two quarters this year, keep asking the question: “Are you the type of donor who makes charitable gifts through a DAF?” If the answer is yes, then ASK: “Will you consider our charity to be the beneficiary of your next DAF gift?”
3. Stay in steady communication with your corporate and foundation “partners” and ASK them “how can we help you?” Giving goes two ways.
4. Analyze all your special events: If they are not bringing in new audiences and new prospective major donors, why are you spending so much time on them? Virtual events work in many cases just as well. Why? Because your donors and prospective donors love your cause! Now is the time to reassess and re-evaluate.
5. Your creativity, intuition and focus are being summoned at an all-time high as we continue to navigate health and economic crises as well as a debate on racial and social injustice. Continue to give yourself, your team, board and volunteers the breathing room to remain creative, intuitive and with laser focus. Where focus goes success follows.

Encouraging Signs

CCS Fundraising shared the findings from their 2nd edition of the Philanthropic Climate Survey — Fundraising Impact of COVID-19 research. The report reflects the responses of 1,014 individuals representing non-profit organizations collected between May 21 and June 1, 2020. In addition to a set of new information, it also includes comparisons to the data collected during the first edition of the survey that received 1,183 responses between April 20 and May 1. They believe the size of the data set and the timeliness of these responses provide an illuminating picture of the depth and scale of the continued impact of the crisis on fundraising in the non-profit sector. Significant findings: 

* The overall picture is notably more positive than it was a month ago, with fewer organizations reporting a negative impact on fundraising today, and a somewhat brighter outlook on fundraising projections for the rest of the year. 
* Still, the picture remains challenging for nonprofits. More than 50% of non-profits reported a fundraising decline. 
* Expectations for declines in fundraising vary by type of fundraising program. Respondents demonstrated the most confidence in foundation giving, with 73% citing they expect giving from foundations to remain the same or increase through year end. 
* Organizations are adapting — just under two-thirds of respondents reported that they were either considering or had held a virtual fundraising event. Similarly, nearly two-thirds of respondents reported undertaking a special appeal or emergency fund. 
* Following trends seen in the first edition of this survey, most non-profits plan to continue with their major pre-existing campaign plans, despite the pandemic, with appropriate modifications. 
* The number of non-profits reporting layoffs and furloughs of fundraising staff increased slightly from the last survey, though a majority of respondents (72%) reported that they either had no staffing changes or added staff. 

Ford Has a Better Idea

The Ford, MacArthur, Mellon, Kellogg, and Doris Duke Foundations announced they had joined forces to substantially increase the sums they will give away this year and next. Ford and several of the others said they would do so by a  joint commitment to increase their payouts to non-profit organizations with more than $1.7 billion within the next two years to help stabilize and sustain a non-profit sector facing devastating economic effects due to the global pandemic and epidemic of social injustice.  Ford Foundation President Darren Walker was the ringleader for the effort. He has been urging his fellow grant makers to step up and give more. He issued that call in a stirring opinion article in The Chronicle of Philanthropy expanded upon on the Ford Foundation website.

Straight Talk

A recent webinar featured Fred Steubing, Financial Services Professional with MassMutual South Texas (our Happy Learning Hour sponsor in pre-social distance days). He shared timely advice on weathering the storm and planning for the future. Key take-aways:
(1) This is a time for re-evaluation of every aspect of operations — from mission to leadership to staffing and budgets.
(2) Non-profits who persist will be more efficient at managing resources and build up reserves. The days of surviving hand-to-mouth are over, and those organizations will evolve or fold.
(3) Two primary government relief programs are available to non-profits and should be researched — Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Be cautious of private lending since it typically comes with higher interest rates and potentially more expectations and requirements.
(4) In considering consolidation, mergers and partnerships, engage the wisdom of the whole — boards, staff, donors and those being served. Don’t overlook the power of fresh eyes and ears of third-party experts.

Personal/Virtual Touches Pay

A random sampling of about 4,000 Bloomerang customers found that those who reached out to donors personally (phone, e-mail, text, in-person) in March and April 2020 saw significant year over year increases in revenue compared to those who didn’t. Those trends continued on in May 2020. Here’s the percent change in revenue compared to Spring 2019: Phone Calls +17.73%; Personal E-mails + 9.86%; Text Messages + 10.02%. We can’t wait to share data on the results from video chats. The bottom line is already clear: Your donors are waiting to hear from you, and you won’t get what you don’t ask for!

Most Essential Companies

The Harris Poll® released The Harris Poll Essential 100, a ranking of corporate response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Americans say 100 leading companies played an essential role during the crisis. The top 10, based on the survey, are (in order): United States Postal Service, Clorox, Google, United Parcel Service, Walmart, Amazon, Purell, Microsoft, FedEx, and CVS. The Essential 100 rates companies based on their resolve, integrity, responsiveness and permanence. What is clear from the survey is corporate America is seen as part of the solution today rather than the problem, as was the case during the 2008 financial crisis. The survey also shows that the reputation of companies during COVID-19 has improved in every sector and that trust in business is at a high.

On the Bookshelf: The Hellfire Club

I could hardly put down The Hellfire Club, by Jake Tapper, Anchor and Chief Washington Correspondent for CNN, and can’t wait for the sequel and/or the movie. In this work of fiction that makes liberal use of real people, Charlie Marder is an unlikely Congressman. Thrust into office by his family ties after his predecessor died mysteriously, Charlie is struggling to navigate the dangerous waters of 1950s Washington, DC, alongside his young wife Margaret, a zoologist with ambitions of her own. Amid the swirl of glamorous and powerful political leaders and deal makers, a mysterious fatal car accident thrusts Charlie and Margaret into an underworld of backroom deals, secret societies, and a plot that could change the course of history. When Charlie discovers a conspiracy that reaches the highest levels of governance, he has to fight not only for his principles and his newfound political career…but for his life.

Computer Savvy

With so many of us working from home, the role of computers and other technology in our daily lives has never been so essential. I turned to my longtime friend, Lee Robin, founder of Computer NERDZ! for practical advice on keeping our hardware and software running smoothly and productively. Here are a few tips:

1. What can you do to ensure your Internet connection is running properly? Depending on how long you have been with your Internet provider, it may be time to review your account and ask for new/less expensive service plans, with more speed. It might even make sense to change providers; it’s an extremely competitive business and you may save hundreds of dollars. 
2. What can you do to ensure your primary devices such as desktops, laptops, tablets and smart phones don’t break down the night before an important deadline? The best advice is to take a proactive approach which will reduce any downtime looming in your future. When you have a “Nerd” perform a General Cleanup on your equipment it usually lengthens the time between failures and improves daily performance — faster response — less waiting on the computer.
3. What can you do to maximize the utility of your various devices? Many people have much more power and utility available to them from their computer than they realize. Just a one-hour Training Session can not only help you become a more confident computer user, but a more efficient user as well. This training can help you get more done more quickly, and give you more time for what’s really important — Family!

Quiz : Top Ranked Universities

Higher education is being challenged by the pandemic as much as any non-profit sector reflected in both enrollment and fundraising. But prestige stills count! The Center for World University Rankings, a consulting firm that publishes the largest academic ranking of global universities, looked at universities across the world based on four primary indicators: quality of education (25%), alumni employment (25%), quality of faculty (10%), and research performance (40%, consisting of research output, quality of publications, influence, and citations). Match the following universities with their respective rankings to answer this question.   Answers are at the bottom of this page.
1. Columbia                a. No.1
2. Harvard                   b. No.3
3. Princeton                 c. No.6
4. Stanford                  d. No.7
5. Yale                        e. No.10

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=c, 2=a, 3=d 4=b, 5=e

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