Stratagems, July 2021

10 Fundraising Blunders

I’ve always liked the sound of the word “pedagogy.” Being in higher education advancement for nearly 25 years, I heard it a lot. It refers to the method and practice of teaching and instruction. Since we launched Eskin Fundraising Training three years ago we’ve relentlessly focused on teaching the principles, strategies and best practices of the art and science of fundraising. I wrote my first book and made countless presentations on 10 Simple Fundraising Lessons. More recently, I’ve modified and updated the list to fit virtual communication required by social distancing. The other morning, I woke up and decided to reverse course on pedagogy. Instead of emphasizing what to do I’m taking a crack at spotlighting precisely what not to do — the mistakes, no-no’s and pitfalls to be specifically avoided. So, I’ve come up with 10 Fundraising Blunders. Our thanks to Bloomerang for running our guest essay on the subject. I’m totally convinced that professional and volunteer fundraisers can avoid these blunders, and in doing so, raise more money more quickly to advance their noble missions that touch, improve and save more lives. I plan to highlight this theme in an upcoming webinar. Let us know what you think of the list: Do they resonate? Did I omit anything crucial? (Remember I like to keep lists to 10 items.) Your guidance is much appreciated as we refine and finalize the contents.

Webinar vs. Workshop

As the door slowly but steadily opens to meeting safely in person again, we are evaluating the pros and cons of facilitating our learning community through in-person workshops or continue via webinars. There are pros and cons to each side. Right now, Andrea and I lean in the direction of continuing the webinars for the foreseeable future. Don’t get me wrong: I love and miss the personal interaction of live workshops. But the time efficiency, expansion of audience size and geography, and access to the wisdom of brilliant leaders from all phases related to non-profit success is too much to discount. In a learning community, everyone’s perspective and views count and enriches the holistic experience. I’ve been elated with the voices that are joining us from all across the country, and even internationally. Our challenge now is making the webinar experience more interactive and more similar to that of a live workshop. We will be working closely with our masterful producer John Largent, CEO Gameday Media, toward that goal and look forward to introducing theatre-type seating this Fall in which all participants can choose to make themselves visible to other participants. Remember, we value and need your ideas on speakers, topics and program enhancements to continue the momentum of our learning community. We will be taking August off to concentrate on writing projects. But we are already scheduling an exciting line-up of topics and speakers for the Fall. We will kick off on September 8th featuring the incomparable Laura Fredricks, the Expert on the ASK, addressing how to put to work what we learned over the past year. Then, on September 22nd, we’re going to have a fascinating webinar comparing and contrasting political and charitable fundraising. Here’s our mission: Learn together, grow together and make the world better together. If you know of a colleague, friend or other non-profit leader who would like to be invited to our free webinars, have them sign up here.

Americans Share and Care in 2020

When it counted the most, Americans from all different socio-economic backgrounds stepped up and shared and cared commensurate with their ability. Charitable giving reached a record high of $471 billion in 2020, according to Giving USA: The Annual Report on Philanthropy. Overall, giving increased by an estimated 5.1% (3.8% when adjusted for inflation) over 2019. The report reflects a unique and complex year in giving, as economic indicators were broadly mixed and donors were motivated by multiple crisis events such as the pandemic and the racial unrest created by the murder of George Floyd, The name of the game remains giving from individuals, which comprise 69% of total giving, with foundations — 19%, bequests — 9% and corporations — 4%. While it’s too soon to tell what that will mean for the coming year, it’s evident that American individuals, corporations and foundations consistently respond to urgent priorities. Giving USA, the longest-running and most comprehensive report of its kind in America, is published by Giving USA Foundation, a public service initiative of The Giving Institute. It is researched and written by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI.

The Wealthy

Wealth-X research examines the pursuits of the wealthy, focusing on the very high net worth (VHNW) population — those with $5m to $30m — and ultra-high net worth (UHNW) individuals with $30m or more. Highlights:
• Sports and philanthropy stand out as the top two favorite interests of the wealthy, with golf as the leading sport, followed by skiing and tennis.
• The level of wealth has a marked effect on the degree of engagement as it relates to philanthropy, yet a passion for technology, education and the outdoors shows little variation across wealth levels.
• North America’s ultra-wealthy are the most actively engaged in philanthropy and the outdoors.
• There are noticeable differences in the interests of the wealthy by gender with sports ranking at the top among UHNW men and philanthropy ranking at the top among UHNW women.

Higher Ed Optimism

A recent Washburn & McGoldrick survey of advancement professionals is the 4th in their series on the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. (The first three surveys in this series were conducted in April, June and September 2020.) Highlights:
• Currently, 65% of advancement professionals are confident about reaching FY21 fundraising goals. This continues the upward trend which has been seen since the beginning of the pandemic. In April 2020 and June 2020 they found only 22% and 17% of the respondents, respectively, were confident about making their fundraising goals. This significantly increased to 40% in September and by January 2021 there was again a significant increase in confidence to the current level of 65%.
• Lack of confidence has also steadily declined since April 2020 when they found 43% were not confident about making their FY20 goals. This lack of confidence proved to be accurate as the CASE Voluntary Support of Higher Education report for 2019-20 shows overall giving to higher education declined nearly 3% from the previous year. This was the first decline in support to higher education since 2010.
• Currently, only 7% lack confidence in making their FY21 annual goals.

Hybrid Replaces Pivot

Last year, fundraisers demonstrated amazing resiliency as they had to rethink, redesign and re-implement systems, programs and mechanics that were based on in-person interaction with donors and prospects. As long as we can remember, in-person has been the gold standard in donor and prospect discovery, cultivation, solicitation and stewardship. As more and more Americans become vaccinated, slowly but steadily social distancing requirements are being relaxed. This is paving the way for new possibilities in ways to engage donors and prospects. Fundraisers can choose multiple strategies — in person, virtual and hybrid — to fit their specific situations and develop the resources needed to advance their missions. Professional and volunteer fundraisers are being challenged to once again be thoughtfully entrepreneurial, creative and innovative. For more on this timely subject read our guest essay featured in Candid Learning.

Mid-Level Donors

Mid-level giving to non-profits, involving individual donors who typically give between $1,000 and $10,000 a year (though now may include gifts up to $25,000) grew during the pandemic, leading a growing number of non-profits to ramp up their mid-level giving fundraising commitment. A Sea Change Strategies report finds that many fundraisers reported strong results in 2020 due to “the unexpected industry-wide flood of giving from people not economically affected by soaring unemployment.” Other key trends highlighted in the report include the following:
• Mid-level fundraising went digital much faster due to the pandemic. Pre-COVID, many mid-level programs were late adopters of e-mail, virtual gatherings, and other digital communications.
• The pandemic offered fundraisers an opportunity to make big changes, with some using the disruptions of 2020 to restructure programs in ways that might have faced resistance in a normal year.
• Many organizations reached new people. The transition to online events, while a mixed blessing in many ways, eliminated geography as a barrier to participation.
• Fundraisers returned to neglected fundraising basics, with many reporting increased outreach to mid-level donors through handwritten notes (my favorite), phone calls. and video visits.

Top Dog

The American Humane Hero Dog Awards® is an annual, nationwide competition that searches out and recognizes America’s Hero Dogs — often ordinary dogs who do extraordinary things, whether it’s saving lives on the battlefield, lending sight or hearing to a human companion, or simply providing the tail-wagging welcome a pet owner relishes at the end of a hard day. Dogs compete in seven different categories for the Hero Dog Awards: Law Enforcement and Detection Dogs, Service Dogs, Therapy Dogs, Military Dogs, Search and Rescue Dogs, Guide/Hearing Dogs, and Shelter Dogs. After voting by the American public, winners in each category are honored on Hallmark Channel’s nationwide broadcast of the American Humane Hero Dog Awards® this October.

Social Donors

OneCause research provide insights from Social Donors who gave to fundraising events and peer-to-peer campaigns over the past year including what motivates their giving, when and how they will be comfortable returning to in-person events, and what influences repeat donations. Key findings include:
• A majority of donors are ready to return to in-person fundraisers. Almost 6-in-10 donors surveyed said they will feel comfortable attending an in-person fundraising event by Summer 2021. Being vaccinated is the main requirement, with older donors needing more specific stipulations and safety precautions in place.
• Social giving is on the rise. Even during a time of social distancing, there was an increase in giving through events and peer-to-peer fundraising, with an estimated 27% of U.S. adults giving in this way over the last 12 months. Giving for occasions (e.g., birthday, memorials), personal challenges, and giving days saw significant growth.
• Social giving experiences and virtual formats are improving access to philanthropy. Younger, more diverse donors are giving more than they did in the past, to more places, and to address current issues and needs. Gen Z and Millennials now represent a majority of Social Donors, with giving among Black and Hispanic donors also increasing.
• Ease, mission, and impact remain top motivators. Having an easy-to-use online platform has been a necessity for those participating virtually.
• Donors value the convenience of virtual contact and would attend virtual events in the future. When asked what their post-pandemic engagement would look like, there were split responses from Social Donors, with 38% leaning towards mostly virtual, 22% with a preference for in-person, and 30% anticipating attending a mix of both.
• There is opportunity to convert more Social Donors to recurring donations. The number of Social Donors who self-report they will give monthly or annually increased to 47% this year, up from 28% in 2018. Feeling like their donation made a difference and an easy giving experience are the most important factors driving repeat gifts.

On Bookshelf: Monthly Giving Made Easy

It’s been a genuine treat to feature Erica Waasdorp, President, A Direct Solution, founded in 2003, on two of our most well-received webinars. Without question, she is the First Lady of Monthly Giving, though to be fair, there is no man her equal. Her second book is out, and if you want a sure-fire way to boost gift income for your non-profit, do yourself a favor and read it. Monthly Giving Made Easy is a how-to guide of 130 rich pages, filled with 95 short chapters, practical tips, examples, exercises and case studies. Monthly giving has become more popular than ever before, especially during the pandemic, but there’s still some hesitation. This book will do away with that once and for all. If you are looking to find a way to help your non-profit raise the sustainable revenue you need to keep your mission going, no matter what happens, this book is for you. You just have to apply the lessons and start asking your donors to give in a way that’s easy for them. Non-profits of any size and from all sectors can benefit from this easy-to-read book and implement monthly giving practices in their own shops right away.

Boston Marathon Update

The Town of Hopkinton, Massachuetts has signed a 99-year lease with the 26.2 Foundation, granting the non-profit organization a 19-acre site on East Main Street in Hopkinton for the development and construction of an International Marathon Center (IMC). The site is located on Route 135 on the Boston Marathon route, less than two-thirds of a mile from the Marathon starting line. First envisioned by the 26.2 Foundation more than a decade ago, the IMC will offer state-of-the-art educational and cultural facilities centered on a marathon museum and hall of honor. The center will include conference facilities and an auditorium, as well as research space, classrooms and function rooms. The construction and management of the center will be privately funded through individual, foundation and corporate philanthropy, and the 26.2 Foundation’s plans call for it to open in Spring 2024. Growing up in Boston, I have a keen appreciation for the Marathon challenge and can say that I owned cars that couldn’t complete the course.

Quiz: Most Generous Cities

To rank the Most Generous Cities, LawnStarter compared the 150 biggest U.S. cities across 12 key indicators of philanthropic behavior, from volunteering rates to the prevalence of food banks. Match the following cities with their respective overall score (higher means more generous) to answer this question. Answers are at the bottom of this page.
1. Cleveland               a. 14
2. Little Rock             b. 29
3. Minneapolis          c. 38
4. Nashville               d. 48
5. Seattle                    e. 59

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

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.