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! 

Fundraising Climate

CCS Fundraising’s 2nd edition of the Philanthropic Climate Survey – Fundraising Impact of COVID-19 research 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, this report 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. 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. The following are among the most 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 non-profits. 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 1st 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. 

Donor Confidence

More proof that that the philanthropic outlook is encouraging: High-dollar donors say they are likely to give as much or more in 2020 than before the pandemic. What does this indicate for non-profits? Lots of things, but mainly that you have a green light to continue fundraising. recently sponsored a new donor confidence study — essentially, who’s giving to what-– and they gathered valuable insight that provides you, the non-profit leader, with three quantifiable, salient points regarding donors during these challenging times:
• High-dollar donor attitudes are positive.
• High-dollar donors will give.
• Keep interacting with high-dollar donors; they base their giving on their knowledge and involvement with your organization.


Will the 2020 presidential campaign impact charitable giving? A fascinating white paper from the Moore Group concludes “No.” It highlights the following:
1. Political contributions from individuals aren’t all that big. Politico estimates that in the 2020 cycle in total, $6.7 billion will be spent on media (with $2.2 billion already out the door). Add in a few billion for non-media spending and you are somewhere around $10 billion. Sounds like a sizable chunk of change — except that last year, non-profits raised $449 billion. So political giving is about 2% to 3% of non-profit giving. Not a huge amount in comparison.
2. It’s unclear whether political giving increases or decreases charitable giving. There are studies supporting opposite impacts.
3. In all those studies, the worst-case scenario is a drop of less than one percent. 
4. Presidential elections haven’t hurt giving before. The only downturn was in 2008, which can be linked to the Great Recession. So a small amount of spending may or may not have a tiny impact on charitable giving, but generally hasn’t before.
Laura Fredricks Caveat: Rethink your timeline for year-end appeals. Traditionally, close to one-third of annual gifts are made in December. In 2020, crank up the machine in October … before the November 3rd election dominates everyone’s thinking. Believe me it always makes sense to pay attention to Laura.


Whether your data has been dormant for the past few years or you already make a point to do a major cleanup annually, here are four quick ways to improve your non-profit database from the Philanthropic Daily. Prioritizing one or all of them will greatly enhance the accuracy of your records.
1. If you have some upcoming major mailings — update donor addresses.
2. If you are strengthening your digital communications (which you should be) – get good donor e-mails.
3. If you have a large donor pool and need to decide who to prioritize, run a wealth screen or do an RFM analysis: a method of ordering your donors into different percentiles of (R) how Recently they’ve given, (F) how Frequently they give, and (M) how Much they give.
4. If you want to start sending your donors birthday cards, get their birthdates.

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.

Admired Industries

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.

Estate Planning

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

The demand for jobs in health care is expected to skyrocket over the next decade, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics projections. However, some of the biggest growth opportunities will be concentrated in low-wage and high-demand work like home health aides and caretakers. Match the following occupations with their respective median base salary to answer this question.
Answers are at the bottom of this page.
1. Corporate controller        a. $113,368
2. Dentist                               b. $114,163
3. Pharmacist                        c. $126,438
4. Physician                          d. $142,478
5. Software engineer            e. $193,415

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

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

.style-k1l0iwlgcont { width: 100%; overflow: hidden; position: relative; } .style-k1l0iwlgline { height: 29px; min-height: 29px; min-width: 90px !important; } .style-k1l0iwlg_left { background-position: 0 0; width: 45px; left: 0; } .style-k1l0iwlg_ln { height: 29px; min-height: 29px; background-image: url(/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/fade_line.png); position: absolute; top: 0; } .style-k1l0iwlg_center { background-position: 0 -29px; right: 45px; left: 45px; } .style-k1l0iwlg_ln { height: 29px; min-height: 29px; background-image: url(/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/fade_line.png); position: absolute; top: 0; } .style-k1l0iwlg_right { background-position: 100% 0; width: 45px; right: 0; } .style-k1l0iwlg_ln { height: 29px; min-height: 29px; background-image: url(/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/fade_line.png); position: absolute; top: 0; }
Read Recent Issues By Jim Eskin


STRATAGEMS®, is a FREE monthly e-publication exploring timely issues and trends in philanthropy, public affairs and advocacy.

To subscribe toSTRATAGEMS®, visit the contact page.