Profile In Inspiration

Profile In Inspiration

What would you do with your only dollar? Nine-year-old Kelvin Ellis Jr. from Baton Rouge was prepared to give it to a homeless person. It turned out that the so-called homeless person wasn’t poor at all. Matt Busbice and his partners have built and sold several outdoor companies worth hundreds of millions of dollars. But Busbice, the 42-year-old owner of sporting goods store BuckFeather says he has never felt richer than he did the day he was offered a single dollar. Here’s the rest of the story: It was early morning and the fire alarm went off inside his condo complex. So, Busbice shot out of bed and raced down the stairs only to discover there was no fire. But he was awake now, so even though he was wearing mismatched clothes and was disheveled, he decided to go out for a cup of coffee. As he was about to enter the coffee shop, he remembered he hadn’t done his morning prayer. So as the security camera shows, Busbice stepped to the corner of the patio to pray.

“If you’re homeless, here’s a dollar,'” Ellis Jr. told Busbice. “I always wanted to help a homeless person, and I finally had the opportunity.” Ellis says he had just gotten the dollar for good grades. It was the only money he had to his name. Busbice was so touched, he invited Ellis in for a snack and then connected with Ellis’ father, who was next door, and promised to stay in touch. As a reward for his kindness, Busbice gave Ellis a shopping spree — 40 seconds to pick out whatever he wanted in BuckFeather, including a new bike. Ellis says it was great, but definitely not what he wanted to get for his dollar. As we like to say over and over again, philanthropy comes from people of all different socio-economic backgrounds and especially in varying amounts. It is especially telling that the motivation is everything — wanting voluntarily to help others in need, especially those who are struggling. Kudos to Kelvin Ellis for being such an inspiring role model!

Fighting Inequality

The Urban Institute reports that for every dollar a typical White household had in 2022, a Black family had 16 cents, and a Latino one had 22 cents. A visionary project is underway to close these horrendous gaps. A New York City non-profit group, Harlem Children’s Zone flush with millions in private capital, is piloting a first-of-its-kind savings program to address the racial wealth gap — by giving thousands of students in Harlem $10,000 each to invest. The organization is raising $300 million for an initiative called Wealth Builds that will launch in Upper Manhattan, where the group operates, and expand to 10 other cities, including Atlanta and Minneapolis. The group said it has already raised enough money to provide the funds to more than 2,200 youths: The entire student body at two charter schools it runs called Promise Academy, from kindergarten to 12th grade. A kindergartner enrolled this year in the program could expect the $10,000 allotment, which will be controlled by professional money managers, to accrue interest of about 5% a year. At the age of 25, the student could have roughly $26,000 in savings. The fund is an acknowledgment that education alone cannot bridge the gap in wealth, which has been growing along racial lines for decades. 

Gen Z

Blackbaud Institute surveyed over 1,000 Gen Zer’s and close to 300 non-profit professionals clearly showing that fundraising organizations are leaving opportunities for engaging Gen Z on the table. By comparing Gen Z’s self-reported charitable behavior and perspectives with the perceptions of professional fundraisers, clear paths forward emerged for stewarding this next generation of donors. Key findings include:

(1) Gen Zers show a promising commitment to transcendent values of giving, generosity, and making the world a better place — and they make these values their own through a unique perspective on how to live them. What makes Gen Zers stand out is their global perspective, their deeply held values around social justice and the environment, and their status as true digital natives. They are generous, especially with their time and energy. More than 80% of Gen Zers report that they support non-profit organizations, charities, or causes in some way.

(2) As donors, Gen Zers are at an early stage of their development and not unlike other past generations. Non-profits should take steps today to engage with Gen Z donors by building trust and illustrating their impact. While 59% of Gen Zers say they donate in some way, only about one-third of those say they donate directly to a charity or organization.

(3) Sixteen percent of Gen Zers report that they don’t support causes or organizations. They point to a range of obstacles and challenges. Not having enough disposable income is the #1 barrier to engagement.

(4) Convenience, opportunities for belonging, and alignments with identity may drive some of Gen Z’s giving channel preferences. Key giving channels for Gen Zers include opportunities that fit in the flow of their daily lives, like retail check-out donations and cause-related retail purchases. Gen Z is also motivated to give by opportunities for engagement and belonging, like events and social media.

(5) Workplace giving and volunteering is a strong positive with Gen Zers in both the for-profit and non-profit sectors. A majority say both workplace giving and workplace volunteering are important.

Red Carpet East

The most beautiful men and women on the planet dressed in stunning couture is a tough combination to top. Ticket prices to the event have sharply risen, making the Met Gala a fund-raising bonanza for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute. This year’s event raised about $26 million. That’s a $4 million increase over last year’s total, and more than double what the event raised a decade ago, in 2014. The total pummels the philanthropic events thrown to support many of the city’s other cultural institutions. The most recent Fall gala for the New York City Ballet raised just short of $4 million, and the American Museum of Natural History’s gala brought in $2.5 million. Even The Met’s other events do not compare: Its Art & Artists Gala raised $4.4 million last year. The event began in 1948 as a benefit for the Costume Institute, the museum’s only curatorial department expected to float its own annual operating budget. Since 1999, Anna Wintour, the global editorial director of Condé Nast and the editor of Vogue, has worked to transform the gala into an immensely profitable commingling of celebrities, sponsors and brands. Ticket prices for the gala have increased steeply. This year an individual ticket was $75,000 — compared to $50,000 last year and $35,000 in 2022. 


More workplaces are bolstering their volunteer programs, especially as employee demands grow for socially responsible employers and engagement. Nearly three in five companies surveyed by the Association of Corporate Citizenship Professionals reported increased opportunities for group volunteering last year. Co-workers are buoyed by recent acts of kindness and might be looking for ways to integrate service more regularly into their professional schedules. They stand to benefit themselves, too. Recent University of Oxford research suggests organized volunteering is one of the most effective workplace programs for improving workers’ well-being. But not all corporate volunteering is created equal. Experts recommend giving freedom to employees in the design of their workplace volunteer program. People who volunteer on their own time likely have a much more personal connection to the cause, whereas an employee group will have varied levels of interest in any given act of service. Allowing employees to select from a range of local community groups and suggest their own can help ensure everyone feels connected to their non-profit partner’s mission. Affinity groups can be a good place to start aligning employee interests with service work.

The More Generous Gender

From the Bridgespan Group: When many funders think about impact, they don’t think about gender. Those who do typically view gender as its own discrete program area — a focus that has been vital for improving the lives of women, girls, and gender-expansive people. Yet time and again, the world shows us gender matters in every issue area. Indeed, the literacy funder who wants to advance reading will want to know that women account for two-thirds of adults globally who are unable to read. Funders concerned with forced displacement or the environment will care that of the 20 million people displaced by climate change every year, an estimated 80% are women. And funders focused on health care should be aware that women spend 25% more time in poor health relative to men. Addressing this health gap would improve women’s lives and boost the global economy by an estimated $1 trillion each year by 2040 as women participate more fully in the workforce. To achieve equitable and lasting change, we must pay attention to the on-the-ground realities of how society works — realities that are shaped profoundly by gender. That gendered reality leads to differences in life experiences and outcomes across gender lines on nearly every issue society faces. And gender inequity is compounded dramatically when it intersects with racism, casteism, and other systems of discrimination.

Major Gifts Officer Pay

One of the toughest challenges facing non-profits is setting salaries for staff. Resources are tight. I have to admit to being biased, but I believe the investment in hiring and especially

retaining Major Gifts Officers yields robust returns and is worth every cent. Although, they can’t perform gift income miracles by themselves, supported by leadership and a genuine culture of philanthropy, they play huge roles in discovering, cultivating, soliciting and stewarding major gifts that make or break the success of resource development programs. We can’t ignore that the competition for high performing individuals is intense. To dive more deeply into this subject, see our article featured in Major Gifts Ramp-Up, What Is A Major Gift Officer’s Salary? It is intended to benefit both employers and employees.

Foundation Payout

Thousands of generous Americans positively impact their communities by contributing to charities through private foundations. Philanthropy Roundtable released research detailing how higher payout requirements for private foundations would hurt the most vulnerable in our society and harm non-profits. Currently, foundations are required to pay out 5% of their assets to charities every year.  That 5% mandate was selected because it promotes short-term giving, while also allowing for creative, long-term work on the issues our nation faces today and tomorrow. Some argue the annual 5% payout rate isn’t high enough or fast enough, but the analysis indicates forcing a higher rate will mean fewer dollars winding up with charities. With about 125,000 private foundations distributing over $100 billion each year to non-profits, the U.S. charitable sector increasingly relies on foundation support to fund its charitable operations. Foundation grantmaking bolsters various societal, environmental and educational initiatives nationwide. To test the concept of a higher payout requirement, the Roundtable ran a simulation comparing the 5% payout rate to a steeper 12% rate. What would happen if a large foundation were forced to pay out at that higher rate? The analysis found that over the course of 50 years, charities would receive $21 billion less under a 12% payout rule. That’s a loss of $21 billion for essential aid that propels our nation’s vibrant charitable sector.  A sharp incline in payout requirements will result in an equally sharp decline in future charitable dollars. The existing 5% minimum regulatory framework maintains a balance that maximizes immediate philanthropic impact with sustained support for addressing long-term societal challenges.  


The Fundraising Effectiveness Project compared data from previous years to data from the full year of 2023. Highlights include:

  • In 2023, we observed a modest decline in fundraising metrics across most donor categories, including dollars raised, donor counts, and retention rates.
  • Small organizations performed the best in terms of dollars raised, remaining flat or slightly positive, with the largest organizations seeing the greatest decrease in fundraising.
  • The International, Foreign Affairs cause area saw a noticeable boost in Q4 of 2023, likely attributed to aid and assistance campaigns relating to international conflicts.

Bookshelf: Between the Listening and the Telling

Stories tether us to what matters most: Our families, our friends, our hearts, our planet, the wondrous mystery of life itself. Yet the stories we’ve been telling ourselves as a civilization are killing us: Fear is wisdom. Vanity is virtuous. Violence is peace. In the pages of Between the Listening and the Telling, storyteller, author and activist Mark Yaconelli leads readers into an enchanting meditation on the power of storytelling in our individual and collective lives. We tell stories to remember who we are. We tell stories to savor the pleasure of living. Stories can be medicine, and they can transform entire communities. Through his work with The Hearth non-profit, Yaconelli has spent thousands of hours listening to people as they grieve loss, deepen friendships, strengthen families, shed light on injustice, and recover hope. In this moving exploration he shows us how individuals and communities can recover the practice of storytelling to address the despair of climate change, the trauma of school shootings, the tragedy of undocumented immigration, and the daily struggle for meaning. Between the Listening and the Telling offers an alloy of story, commentary, and meditation. In an era of runaway loneliness, alienation, global crisis, and despair, sharing stories helps us make a home within ourselves and one another. This book offers a hope for unity that we had nearly given up on.

AI Update

Since its launch in November 2022, millions of Americans have experimented with OpenAI’s ChatGPT. In early 2023, the Harris Poll declared ChatGPT was the fastest growing app of all time. It acquired 100 million monthly users in just two months. In contrast, it took TikTok nine months and Instagram 2.5 years to reach this many monthly users. ChatGPT uses have widely varied — from generating silly stories to completing school and work assignments. Predictably, younger Americans have used ChatGPT at higher rates than older Americans. More interestingly, the Harris Poll points to disparate use across racial groups. Minority groups — Asian, Black, and Hispanic Americans — have used ChatGPT at higher rates than White Americans.

Quiz: Best Bars

Cocktail lovers are scrambling for reservations and bar owners are preparing for the rush of new customers. It can only mean one thing: The 50 Best organization has announced its annual list of the 50 Best Bars in North America. It taps a group of 270 bar industry experts across the region to cast a maximum of seven votes for bars they’ve visited in the past year. Match the following bars with their respective ranking (No.1 being the top ranked). Bottoms up! Answers are shown at the bottom of the page.

1. Handshake Speakeasy, Mexico City    a. #1

2. Jewel of the South, New Orleans         b. #3

3. Martiny’s, New York                               c. #4

4. Overstory, New York                               d. #6

5. Thunderbolt, Los Angeles                      e. #8

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=b, 5=e

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