Starting the Year Strong

One of the best things about a new year is starting with a completely clean slate. For example, my buddies at the gym can brag about their 100% attendance rate during early January. The same applies for your development and fundraising operations. It’s an opportunity to ensure you are doing the right and smart things necessary to tell your story, build relationships, ask for gifts and when you receive them, thank donors. Over the past two years, it’s been a great privilege for Eskin Fundraising Training to work with so many passionate professional and volunteer fundraisers who are devoted to a wide range of noble missions that make a better world.
The late Jerold Panas, who mentored and inspired countless numbers of us through his books, presentations and sharing of wisdom said that a successful fundraiser needs numerous attributes, but at the top of the list is an outsized sense of optimism. We have to believe! We need to believe in our causes, in ourselves, and that if we apply the Jeffersonian virtues of a knowing head and an honest heart to our work, we will be successful. And, we must believe in the fundraising process itself and enthusiastically invest time in it. I’ve been fortunate to be engaged in philanthropy over three decades. Time and time again, I’ve observed our principles, strategies and best practices pay handsome dividends and move good works forward. So, here’s to continuing the momentum in 2020!

Microsoft Partnership

We’re very excited about moving our workshop partnership with Microsoft into a third year. It’s a genuine honor to collaborate with the wonderful Microsoft team. Little wonder that year after year, Microsoft consistently ranks as one of the most socially responsible corporations on the planet. Leading personalities from the world of philanthropy — both locally and from other parts of the country — will join us to share their rich perspectives. I don’t know of anyone who better demonstrates how much a difference one person can make than Gordon Hartman, who will be our guest speaker on Wednesday, February 5th, 4 to 5:30 p.m., at the Microsoft Theatre at The Shops at La Cantera-San Antonio. Gordon has excelled as an entrepreneur and business leader growing his company into the largest locally owned homebuilding and land-development enterprise in San Antonio. But his proudest accomplishments are as a loving parent and visionary philanthropist. Inspired by his now 26-year-old daughter, Morgan, who was born with cognitive and physical challenges, along with his wife Maggie, he established The Gordon Hartman Family Foundation to pursue their dream of helping children and adults with special needs. As a result, Morgan’s Wonderland and Morgan’s Inspiration Island stand out as national models in providing positive opportunities for individuals with special needs and their families. Since 2005, Gordon and Maggie Hartman and The Gordon Hartman Family Foundation have committed more than $50 million and assisted over 600 non-profit agencies for the betterment of those with special needs and the special needs community. He passionately champions the concept of ultra-accessibility — elevating accessibility to a higher level so that no matter how acute someone’s special needs are, they’ll be able to participate in everything. The workshops are free, but you need to register here. We look forward to welcoming you to our learning community.

Projecting 2020

Based on a 2019 online survey of more than 18,500 Americans who made at least one donation in 2017 or 2018, the 2019 edition of the Burk Donor Survey: How to Raise More Money in a Changing Giving Environment found that 56% of respondents expected to give about the same amount by the end of 2019 and into 2020 as they did in 2018, while 29% planned to give more and 10% planned to give less. Of the 23% of respondents who donated at least $10,000 in 2018, a third planned to give more in 2019 and 2020, up from a quarter in the previous survey. In addition, donors under the age of 35 were more likely to say they would give more (49%) than those between the ages of 35 and 64 (32%) and those over the age of 64 (26%). A quarter of all respondents who intend to increase their giving cited politics as a factor in their decision, down from 33% and 51%in the 2018 and 2017 surveys. But 72% would actually give more if fundraisers made adjustments that captured their attention. This report features the most important things fundraisers can do to inspire more donors to unleash their giving at a higher level.

Wealthy Families

Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors and Campden Wealth have released a report based on a survey of 201 families of significant wealth who are engaged in philanthropic giving. The responses reveal why these families give, the types of vehicles through which they donate, what shapes their philanthropic time horizon choices, popular causes, and engagement of the next generation. Among the significant findings:
* More donors are proactively considering the time horizon of their philanthropy, weighing whether it is more effective to have a pre-determined end date for philanthropic initiatives or to continue in perpetuity.
Education is the top cause families give to globally, constituting 29% of the average philanthropic portfolio, followed by health (14%), and the arts, culture and sports (10%).
* European donors are twice as likely to give outside their region as those from North America and Asia-Pacific.
* Despite increasing global concern for climate change, the environment receives a scant 8% of the giving portfolios in this survey.

Learning from Masters: Jay Frost

Last year through the DonorSearch Flash Class series, I thoroughly enjoyed working with the host, Jay Frost, President, Frost on Fundraising. For over three decades as a grant-maker, fundraiser, consultant, and serial social entrepreneur, Jay has been a leader in bringing together people, ideas, and resources to fuel positive change. As a consultant to non-profits and advisor to companies serving the third sector, he has worked with hundreds of organizations to identify and pursue billions in fundraising opportunities around the world, providing counsel at all stages of development from start-up to capital campaigns. Jay says to stand out in a hugely competitive environment, “non-profits must be service-oriented — engaging people authentically, sincerely and personally acknowledging gifts within 72 hours.” He emphasizes that a digital receipt is not the same as a “thank you” note or call. “Make it all about them,” he says. “Tell your supporters the impact of their dollars and ask how they would like to be involved.” On the challenge of upgrading annual donors to major gifts donors, he advises looking inside your database to see who has given recently, frequently, consistently, or increasingly. “If you are not always providing a path to monthly giving do that now,” Jay says. He also recommends that organizations screen their databases to identify individuals with high financial capacity and demonstrated philanthropy. “At the intersection of capacity and interest is your major donor prospect pool,” Jay adds, “So pick up the phone, thank them for their support, set a date to visit them, learn about their passion for your work, and then begin to craft philanthropic opportunities that are carefully tailored to their interests.”

In Nurses We Trust

For the 18th year in a row, Americans rate the honesty and ethics of nurses highest among a list of professions that Gallup asks U.S. adults to assess annually. Currently, 85% of Americans say nurses’ honesty and ethical standards are “very high” or “high,” essentially unchanged from the 84% who said the same in 2018. Alternatively, Americans hold car salespeople in the lowest esteem, with 9% saying individuals in this field have high levels of ethics and honesty, similar to the 8% who said the same in 2018. Nurses are consistently rated higher in honesty and ethics than all other professions that Gallup asks about, by a wide margin. Medical professions in general rate highly in Americans’ assessments of honesty and ethics, with at least six in 10 U.S. adults saying medical doctors, pharmacists and dentists have high levels of these virtues. The only non-medical profession that Americans now hold in a similar level of esteem is engineers, with 66% saying individuals in this field have high levels of honesty and ethics. The public’s low levels of belief in the honesty and ethical standards of Senators and Members of Congress may be a contributing factor in poor job approval ratings for the legislature. No more than 30% of Americans have approved of Congress in the past 10 years.


This is a trait that virtually every profession aspires to embrace. It comes as no surprise that Dr. Amir Pasic, Eugene R. Tempel Dean of the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, highlights its role in our profession. Though we may not be at the top of org charts, Pasic emphasizes that fundraisers should embrace that role of seeing themselves as leaders because they are essential to organizational success. They must understand that they can make things happen and that they connect the official leaders with wonderful assets, or the relationships that support the organization. The most successful fundraisers are the ones who embrace leadership as a core part of their identity and as being the catalyst to make things happen.

Happy Learning Hours

Our 2020 partnership with MassMutual South Texas is off to a running start. The basic premise is simple: You learn a lot more when you have fun. Our learning community is enriched by lively conversation, questions and networking. At the inaugural session, we reviewed The 10 Simple Fundraising Lessons which remind everyone that more than anything else fundraising best practices are based on common sense and within the grasp of those devoted to the missions of their organizations. The next Happy Learning Hour will be February 19th and feature role-playing the ask with staff and board members from local non-profits rehearsing their pitches. We will simulate pushback and tough questions from prospective donors and our audience will be asked to suggest ways to overcome such resistance. Watch for invitations. Our sincere thanks to Fred Steubing for coordinating the outstanding hospitality from MassMutual South Texas.


Fundraisers can and should love conveying gratitude to their donors. Acknowledging gifts promptly, personally and genuinely is essential in sustaining life-long relationships. One of the chapters in my book addresses the Rule of 7X: Every gift, whether it is for $100 or $1 million should be thanked seven different times during the year. It’s a new year and a perfect time to re-energize the commitment to robust stewardship. Here’s my LinkedIn column on the subject.

On the Bookshelf: First Ladies

If you enjoy reading history, especially political history like I do, I strongly recommend Kati Marton’s Hidden Power as an engrossing look at 12 presidential marriages — from Edith and Woodrow Wilson up to Laura and George W. Bush — that have profoundly affected America’s history. Marton uncovers the behind-the-scenes dynamics of the ultimate power couples, showing how first ladies have used their privileged access to the president to influence staffing, promote causes, and engage directly in policy-making. Edith Wilson secretly ran the country after Woodrow’s debilitating stroke. Eleanor Roosevelt was FDR’s moral compass. And Laura Bush, initially shy of any public role, proved to be the emotional ballast for her husband. Through extensive research and interviews, Marton reveals the substantial — yet often overlooked — legacy of presidential wives, providing insight into the evolution of women’s roles in the 20th century and vividly depicting the synergy of these unique political partnerships.

Football Hero

Joe Burrow, Louisiana State University’s star quarterback, is being rightly celebrated for his commanding performance in the national championship game: 463 yards passing and five touchdowns in a 42-25 victory over Clemson. But for those who, like Burrow, have roots in poverty-stricken Athens County, Ohio, his most impressive stat may be the $508,102 he helped raise for the area’s food bank. When Burrow was awarded the Heisman Trophy last month, he teared up as he spoke of his hometown, where he arrived as a third grader, and the struggles of those who live there. Will Drabold, who graduated from Athens High a few years ahead of Burrow, told the New York Times that the speech “was like being struck by lightning.” Inspired by Burrow, Drabold took action: He created a Facebook page requesting donations to the Athens County Food Pantry that cited the Heisman winner’s speech. He kicked things off by putting in $50, with a goal of eventually reaching $1,000. In the following 24 hours, the page had raised $80,000. Now, a month later, donations total $508,102 — five times the food pantry’s annual budget. Another pantry in Baton Rouge, La., home of LSU, has also raised more than $60,000 since the speech. The Athens County Food Pantry, which provides roughly 400 families with food each month, must now decide how best to use the huge influx of funds.

Quiz : Most Generous States

U.S. donors in 2018 gave more than $427 billion to charity, with 68% of the funds coming directly from individuals. But Americans do more than reach in their pockets to help others. They also contribute their time — and plenty of it. Nearly 63 million people volunteer in the U.S., serving a combined total of 7.9 billion hours per year, the equivalent of $184 billion of service. Not everyone is equally selfless, however. In the spirit of inspiring altruism, WalletHub determined the most charitable of the 50 states by comparing them across 19 key indicators of charitable behavior. The data set ranges from volunteer rate to share of income donated to share of sheltered homeless. Match the following states with their respective scores to answer this question.  Answers are at the bottom of this page.
1. Ariz.                        a. 46.74
2. Calif.                       b. 53.75
3. Kansas                     c. 57.61
4. Minn.                      d. 66.11
5. Ohio                        e. 71.25   

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

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