Stratagems, April 2023

Remembering a Hero and Mentor

On February 19, 2023, we lost a truly bigger-than-life leader in business, philanthropy and civic causes. B.J. “Red” McCombs passed away at age 95, but not before touching, improving and saving countless lives. He was even big by his beloved Texas standards. Equally impressive as his macro impact on the world around him was the profound way he mentored and enriched the lives of so many of us on an individual basis. I know — I am proud to say that I was one of them. He was the first to encourage me to consider a career in the non-profit sector, and especially the development and fundraising field. I will be eternally grateful to him for his guidance and support. Like so many others, I will never forget the inspiring example of Mr. McCombs. Here is a profile I wrote on Mr. McCombs in 2019.

Taking the Pulse

The 2023 CCS Philanthropy Pulse report provides a window into the fundraising practices of nearly 1,200 organizations across non-profit sectors based on data collected in late 2022. Key findings include:

  • Organizations across the board experienced fundraising revenue growth in FY’21, regardless of their size or budget.
  • Although 62% of organizations saw an increase in donors in FY’21, donor retention remained a top challenge, with 36% of organizations reporting new donor retention.
  • Organizations that invested in hiring and retaining staff exhibited more fundraising revenue growth in FY’21.
  • DEI continues to be a driving fundraising strategy focus, as organizations that invested in DEI saw greater growth than those that did not.

Bringing Us Together

If there’s one thing all of us can agree on it is that Americans need actionable ways to come closer together. The way we are so split, divided and polarized is downright frightening. We love this guest piece in Forbes by Tulaine Montgomery, Co-CEO and Co-Curator, and Shawn Dove, Managing Partner and Co-Curator of New Profit, on three ways philanthropy can bring America together. This perfectly syncs with our conviction that philanthropy brings out the best in us and reminds us that more is possible. America continues to be a work in progress and this includes sometimes having to travel on bumpy roads. But the Forbes piece reinforces the powerful role that philanthropy can and should play:

  • Get closer to the people who are closest to the issues. For example, the pandemic brought into sharper focus the role of parents and families in education, as we saw caring adults step into the role of educators.
  • Share power and decision-making. Listening is important, but it’s not enough. We need to actively engage with each other in a co-design process focused on collective ideation and decision-making.
  • Lift up stories of connection. If we’re going to break out of the doom-and-gloom feedback loop, we need to feed the algorithm something different, and lift up stories of connection, collaboration, and coalition-building. 


Knowing What "No" Means

If you’re going to ask for gifts, you’re going to hear “No.” It’s all part of the fundraising profession and discipline. But “No” is very nuanced and can convey different meanings, and doesn’t mean there won’t be future opportunities to collaborate with donor prospects. We are grateful to Bloomerang for featuring our article, “12 Lessons For Fundraisers After Hearing “No” From A Major Donor Prospect.” Fundraisers, by nature, are eternal optimists. “No” means ask me again later.


Organizational Health

The performance of an organization is critically dependent on its health — its ability to align around and achieve strategic goals. However, many leaders overlook organizational health because they lack a clear way to measure and improve it. For a broad and deep assessment of a company’s wellbeing, McKinsey developed the Organization Health Index (OHI), a digital survey tool that quantitatively diagnoses strengths and improvement areas, enabling organizations to create targeted action plans to improve their health and success. Some factors OHI assesses include its direction, leadership, employee motivation and capabilities, work environment, accountability measures, and more. Since OHI’s launch 20 years ago, more than 2,500 McKinsey clients in over 100 countries have used this tool to improve organizational health. Now, after a successful pilot with more than 70 non-profits, OHI will be available free of charge to non-profits around the world through the OHI for Non-profits program. (Qualifying non-profits can apply now through March 31, 2023 to enroll.) The pilot reached more than 4,000 employees at non-profits operating in more than 45 countries. OHI is an effective tool to help you peel back the curtain and find not only your weaknesses but what’s most important to your success. has already identified important insights for the non-profit sector coming out of the program: 91% of staff at the healthiest non-profits say their organizations are extremely effective at achieving their mission, whereas at the least healthy, it’s only 60%. Staff members who don’t believe their organization is extremely effective at achieving its mission are 10 times more likely to plan to leave the organization in the coming year.

Next Generation

The Women’s Philanthropy Institute has released Moving Money and Shifting Power for Social Justice: Voices of Wealthy Next-Gen Donors, exploring how young, wealthy donors are engaging in social justice philanthropy. The report is informed by 28 interviews with current or alumni members of Resource Generation, a membership community of wealthy, young adults who are committed to equity and wealth redistribution. The report, which is funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, provides insights on how this group of donors practice philanthropy to support social justice, including their motivations, behaviors and challenges. The role of philanthropy in addressing inequity has gained visibility in response to recent events that have disproportionately impacted marginalized communities. Rising wealth disparities and the upcoming transfer of wealth from Baby Boomers to younger generations have also sparked conversations about Next-Gen donors and how they approach solving social issues. For study participants, social justice philanthropy is a framework for understanding wealth, systems, class, and privilege that informs their giving. Guided by the values they hold for a more equitable future, these donors engage in social justice philanthropy to dismantle systems that consolidate, maintain, and grow wealth and power. In doing so, participants are confronted with several core tensions inherent in social justice giving.


Hamilton For a Cause

“Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda will bring his award-winning musical back to Puerto Rico for two weeks of performances in June, including a fundraiser for the Hispanic Federation and Flamboyan Foundation. The return engagement is Miranda’s way of showcasing what philanthropy has accomplished in rebuilding Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria in 2017, as well as what remains to be done. As part of the June 16th fundraiser, Miranda will reunite with “Hamilton” original Broadway cast members Renee Elise Goldsberry, Christopher Jackson and Leslie Odom Jr., for their first public appearance together since 2017. Though they will not perform in the show, the quartet of “Hamilton” stars will watch the new cast and mingle with guests at receptions before and after the show. Tickets for the fundraiser go on sale through the Hispanic Federation. Organizers hope to raise at least $2 million to support work in Puerto Rico, through the fundraiser and other donations, for the Hispanic Federation and the Flamboyan Arts Fund, which is a partnership between the Flamboyan Foundation, Miranda, his family, and “Hamilton.”


The Arts Endowments

Mitchell Rales, co-founder of the Danaher Corporation and President of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., has donated $1.9 billion to the Glenstone Foundation, which operates the Glenstone Museum, in Potomac, Maryland. The donation from Rales — who, with his wife, Emily Wei Rales, joined the Giving Pledge in 2019 — was disclosed in the foundation’s 2021 IRS tax filing, and brings the foundation’s assets to $4.6 billion, putting its endowment on par with the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The contribution has few precedents in philanthropy and dwarfs the $200 million gift to the Smithsonian Institution made by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos in 2021. According to Bloomberg, the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, founded by the bequest of J. Paul Getty, is considered to have the largest museum endowment in the world, topping $8.6 billion as of June 2022. The foundation funds the museum — founded in 2006 and curated by Rales’ wife — which exhibits more than 1,300 works of art created since 1945, including pieces by Cy Twombly, Robert Gober, Charles Ray, and Brice Marden as well as a 230-acre sculpture park. 


Auto Infatuation

Justin Felker was sitting at home last summer, staring at his computer and trying to decide how much he should pay for a car once driven by Tom Cruise. He had two minutes to make up his mind — and the clock was ticking. He was in a bidding war on Bring a Trailer, an online auction house for classic and collectible cars, and Mr. Felker had already obliterated his budget. He woke up that morning with a spending limit of $40,000. That was $60,000 ago. From his couch in Florida, he’d learned enough about this 1984 Nissan 300ZX to feel confident that a race car connected to Hollywood would be a lucrative investment over time, but he still couldn’t quite believe what he was doing when he typed in his bid: $102,200. His heart was beating out of his chest as he waited to find out if that would be enough. Bring a Trailer has become the place for enthusiasts like Mr. Felker to buy, sell and geek out over their dream cars. The platform auctions hundreds of cars every week, spanning thousands of makes and models from Ford to Ferrari and projects under $10,000 to beauties over $1 million.


On Bookshelf: Culture Shock

Who knew that the whole world would change overnight? The pandemic transformed the very structure of how we work and live. Now, Gallup’s latest book, Culture Shock, offers deep analysis into the new realities created by this culture shock and the implications for managers, employees, customers and organizations everywhere.

  • 56% of U.S. full-time workers said they don’t have to be in the workplace anymore because they discovered they can do their job from home.
  • 50% of U.S. employees now want their work and life blended.
  • Only about one in four U.S. employees feel strongly that their organization cares about their wellbeing.
  • Managers report higher stress and burnout than those they manage.
  • When it comes to overall wellbeing, the quality of the work experience has 2.5x to 3x the impact of the number of days or hours worked.

The pandemic disrupted everything — and there’s no going back to “normal.” How do leaders navigate the future of work, business and employee wellbeing while retaining their best customers? Learn more about Gallup’s solution to the biggest leadership issue of our time. This fascinating book will be released May 30, 2023.


Sleep = Generosity

While we were forced to spring our clocks forward on March 12th, don’t expect donations to charity to do the same. Researchers from the Center for Human Sleep Science at University of California at Berkeley have found that people are less generous when they don’t get enough sleep, and that translates to a 10% decline in money donated in the days following the switch to daylight saving time. Eti Ben Simon was the lead researcher on a study, published in the scientific journal PLOS Biology, that found when people don’t get enough sleep, they have less desire to help others. The research demonstrated the finding in several contexts — a full night of sleep deprivation, a night of poor quality sleep, and the loss of a single hour of sleep when localities switch to daylight saving time. All of these studies pointed to the same result: that people are less interested in helping other people, they’re less generous, following lack of sleep. Let’s hope we can make the lost money up in the Fall.


Quiz: MLB Ticket Prices

Take me out to the ballpark — but make sure you have credit cards. Match the following average ticket prices (from TickPick) by their 2021 prices for the MLB teams shown below. (Expect parking and refreshments to substantially drive up costs.) Answers are shown at the bottom of the page.

1. Astros       a. $10

2. Cardinals      b. $12

3. Cubs         c. $16

4. Red Sox      d. $51

5. Yankees      e. $75

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

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