We cherish working with non-profit professionals and volunteers who, through a variety of  different roles and noble missions, demonstrate amazing commitment to improving the lot of others. They may be CEOs, Directors of Development, other staff, board members, volunteers and donors. They’re all special people who get to experience and see close-up that Americans, through their gifts of time and money, embrace — as Abraham Lincoln described — the “better angels of our nature.” By their intuitive character, they’re optimistic and believe that more is possible. As the world grapples with the awesome challenges presented by COVID-19, our inspiring non-profit friends are needed more than ever. We look forward to deepening our working relationships and friendships with you. This is the time to support, encourage, learn from one from another, and come together and collaborate for the greater good. In that spirit, we are proud to introduce a new slogan saluting all those in the non-profit sector who play personal roles in making the world a better place. Philanthropy rallies people and elevates the human spirit. We invite you to consider incorporating this graphic as you see fit in your various e-communications.

Fighting for Survival

We’re not going to sugarcoat things. This is a time of Draconian challenge for the non-profit sector. While providing so much of what is most valuable in social service, arts and culture, recreation, education and other essential areas that touch the lives of more than 1 in 5 Americans, the sector will be tested as it never has before. Even before COVID-19, it was estimated that less than half of all non-profits have one month of operating reserves and less than six months of cash to keep them running. Now is the time for non-profit leaders, staff, boards, volunteers and donors to think anew about operations, mission statements, staffing, budgets and much else. As opposed to shutting down, consider the best interests of those you serve, and prudently explore mergers, partnerships, consolidations and divestment of “non-core” programs. Here’s an article I published on the Inside Charity website on the 4-Rs of coping with COVID-19.


We wish the circumstances could have been different, but it is fulfilling to enter the webinar world and exponentially increase the size of our audience and learning community. We are firmly committed to continuous improvement with every session. Our plan is to host webinars free to non-profit friends, on Wednesdays from 4 to 5 p.m. Central Time. Everyone in our Constant Contact database will receive an invitation. If you’re unable to register in time, we will make a recording and slides available on social media afterward. We welcome your suggestions on future topics. A special word of thanks to John Largent, CEO Gameday Media, for the indispensable role he is playing as our producer. Upcoming webinars include (with many more in the works):

* April 22, 4 – 5 p.m., Discovery, Cultivation, Solicitation and Stewardship of Donors during COVID-19 with Marv LeRoy Founder/President, Institute for Philanthropic Excellence. You may register here.
* May 6, 5 – 5 p.m., The Go-Giver Mindset with Harriet E. Dominique, Senior Vice President, Corporate Responsibility and Community Affairs, USAA
* May 13, 4 – 5 p.m., 10 Simple Fundraising Lessons: COVID-19 version

Communicating During a Crisis

Our second Non-Profit Empowerment webinar featured Lionel Sosa, advisor to three Presidents of the U.S. and numerous Fortune 500 companies, and now Founder/CEO of the non-profit, Yes! Our Kids Can, with the mission of disrupting the cycle of generational poverty in America. Our five top takeaways:

1. Don’t delay: Crank up your communications machinery sooner rather than later.
2. Recognize and accept that there will be much more that you don’t know than what you do know; focus on what you do know better than anyone else — how COVID-19 is impacting your non-profit, its programs and services.
3. Communicate with donors consistently, preferably once a week, through e-mail and other digital media.
4. Provide major gift donors a more personal touch such as a video or telephone call from your CEO, Board Chair, or other member of the board that has a personal relationship with them. Don’t hesitate to ask them for their continued philanthropic leadership.
5. Above all else, treat donors like family: Ask how they are doing, if there’s any way you can help them, and update them on the non-profit. Here’s the recording and slides of the webinar.

Rays of Sunshine

Americans have consistently found a way to share their precious gifts of time and money when crisis hits. We are seeing this generous trait demonstrated once again. According to recent BBB Wise Giving Alliance research, 30% of individuals say they intend to give more in 2020. More than half of individuals (52.5%) say they expect to give about the same, and another 30.8% of individuals say they plan to give more in 2020. Younger generations intend to increase their giving, with 47.7% of Millennials and 60.8% of Gen Z participants saying they plan to give more. This is reinforced by the findings of a Fidelity Charitable survey in which three in four donors plan to give the same or more to charity this year than they did in 2019. This is not to understate the depth of the challenge facing our sector. In the same survey, 80% of charities anticipate their 2020 revenue will be lower than expected. Most charities (89.4%) are concerned about maintaining a financially stable organization in 2020.

DAFs Step Up

Fidelity Charitable also reports that its donors have recommended more than $100 million in grants from their donor-advised fund accounts to over 4,500 nonprofits in response to the COVID-19 pandemic since tracking officially began. In March alone, grant volumes increased 36% from the prior year, with 136,000 grants recommended. Fidelity Charitable is now challenging their donors to hit the $200 million granting mark by Tuesday, May 5th, which has been dubbed “Giving Tuesday Now.” DAFs were already playing a dynamic role in philanthropy. Fidelity Charitable reported that donors recommended an unprecedented $7.3 billion in grants from their donor-advised fund accounts in 2019.This far exceeds even the previous record of $5.2 billion set in 2018, underscoring the supercharged impact driven by use of donor-advised funds, the fastest-growing vehicle for giving in the U.S.

Leading By Example

Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter, announced the most generous gesture yet in the wake of COVID-19. He is providing $1 billion in equity in the other company he co-founded, Square, to go to good causes, starting with coronavirus responses. Dorsey made the announcement in a tweet, revealing that the sum equates to roughly 28% of his current net worth, or about $3.6 billion. The announcement marks the most significant philanthropic effort from the 43-year-old tech executive in his career. He says the $1 billion will go into Start Small and will be publicly tracked. (He even tweeted the public Google Sheets spreadsheet that will track the spending.) It includes an existing $100,000 donation Dorsey gave to America’s Food Fund. He says following the COVID-19 relief effort, Start Small will shift focus to “girl’s health and education, and UBI or universal basic income.”

What Lies Ahead

Ask 100 experts and get 100 different opinions. I’m going to listen first to the experts at Family School of Philanthropy (LFSOP), the world’s first school dedicated solely to the study and teaching of philanthropy. Here’s more on what they’re saying on the impact of COVID-19: It’s established knowledge that the stock market affects giving and has impacted it in in the past. So, is it important to follow day-to-day trends in the stock market, or to study it long-term? Dr. Patrick Rooney, Executive Associate Dean for Academic Programs and Professor of Economics and Philanthropic Studies, explains that both are important. “It’s easier to follow day-to-day news about the economy,” he says. “It’s also beneficial to understand current economic trends when you’re discussing giving with your donors, as the stock market can affect their lives. However, our research has found that the day-to-day variation in the stock market really doesn’t predict changes in household giving. It’s more year-end to year-end. Longer-term trends matter. If donors, especially high-net worth donors, do gain money through the stock market in one year and then lose it the next, they may be less comfortable making big philanthropic investments. However, even if they decrease their giving from their stock assets, they may give more aggressively out of their income.” Non-profits and fundraisers should keep in mind that different types of donors, which include individuals, foundations, and corporations, may give differently. During the 2008 recession, the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy found that foundation giving can be counter-cyclical. In other words, foundations may actually give more during more challenging economic times. Corporate giving may vary by industry and sector. Individual giving is the most susceptible to changes in the overall economy. In other words, donors can give out of multiple different channels. While the economy, GDP, the stock market, and tax policy play an important role in giving, they aren’t the only reasons why people give.

A Real Hero

With fears that food insecurity could spike as layoffs mount around the U.S. due to the coronavirus, private aviation company Wheels Up and NFL star quarterback Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks have teamed up for a 10-million meal donation to hunger relief organization Feeding America. The private jet company, which lists many celebrities and athletes among its client base, is now reaching out to more about joining the effort, called Meals Up. The idea started with Wilson and his wife, singer and songwriter Ciara. He and his wife have already donated one million meals to Feeding America. The couple’s philanthropy inspired Kenny Dichter, Wheels Up founder and CEO, to mobilize his own network and resources in an effort to help struggling Americans during the coronavirus pandemic. Dichter pointed out that there are 37 million Americans that are food insecure on a regular day, and the worry is that this may double. According to Feeding America, 92% of food banks reported seeing an increase in demand for food assistance between March 19 and March 23, and 64% of food banks reported a decline in food donations and volunteers during the same survey period. Food Lifeline, a member of Feeding America, typically sees 500 volunteers per week. Due to coronavirus concerns, it has suspended all volunteer group activity.

On the Bookshelf: Doing Good Better

Most of us want to make a difference. We donate our time and money to charities and causes we deem worthy, choose careers we consider meaningful, and patronize businesses and buy products we believe make the world a better place. Unfortunately, we often base these decisions on assumptions and emotions rather than facts. As a result, even our best intentions often lead to ineffective – and sometimes downright harmful outcomes. How can we do better? While a researcher at Oxford, trying to figure out which career would allow him to have the greatest impact, William MacAskill confronted this problem head-on in his book Doing Good Better. He discovered that much of the potential for change was being squandered by lack of information, bad data, and our own prejudice. As an antidote, he and his colleagues developed effective altruism, a practical, data-driven approach that allows each of us to make a tremendous difference regardless of our resources. Effective altruists believe that it’s not enough to simply do good, we must do good better. At the core of this philosophy are five key questions that help guide our altruistic decisions: How many people benefit, and by how much? Is this the most effective thing I can do? Is this area neglected? What would have happened otherwise? What are the chances of success, and how good would success be? By applying these questions to real-life scenarios, MacAskill shows how many of our assumptions about doing good are misguided.


A few months ago, remote work was niche. In the past months, just over half of employed

Americans have transitioned to working from home – at least, for the time being. It’s a massive experiment. Remote work isn’t a perk anymore: it’s temporarily mandatory for millions of employees. The Harris Poll conducted a survey among over 1,200 employed U.S. adults to explore how the change is going. Over half of all employed Americans (51%) have transitioned to working from home. Harris findings suggest they feel good about the change in some ways, but still miss the office. Among those who have transitioned to working from home in the past month:
* 65% feel their productivity has increased now that they work from home.
* 80% say they can better manage interruptions from co-workers now that they work from home.
* 80% enjoy being able to see their family during the day now that they work from home.
* 77% say they’re finding new times to be productive outside of the normal 9 to 5 hours.
* And yet, even with all of those seeming advantages, 66% prefer working in the office or workplace over working from home.

Quiz : Most Caring Cities

In order to identify the areas that care the most, WalletHub compared the 100 largest cities across 39 key indicators of a compassionate spirit. The data set ranges from share of sheltered homeless persons to number of volunteering hours per capita to share of income donated to charity. Match the following cities finishing in the Top Five with their respective caring rating (higher is more caring).  Answers are at the bottom of this page.
1. Lincoln, NE                        a. 64.63
2. Madison, WI                       b. 64.85
3. Minneapolis, MN                c. 65.36
4. Pittsburgh, PA                    d. 65.48
5. Virginia Beach, VA            e. 66.48

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

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