Stratagems, July 2023

Dream Big Dreams

It takes several essential ingredients to succeed as a non-profit. It takes leadership, prudent planning, devoted staff and volunteers and, of course, sufficient financial resources. But I contend that the first ingredient is a dream. A vision of how in an uber-competitive environment of more than 1.5 million non-profits in which donors have to choose not among the good and the bad, but make difficult choices between the good and the good, of how the mission touches, improves and saves more lives in a profoundly distinctive fashion from all the other good causes. Fortunately, our nation is blessed with a multitude of such selfless dreamers, who back up their dreams by working exceptionally hard and exceptionally smart. We have had the privilege of working with numerous dreamers as part of our steadily growing learning community of professional and volunteer non-profit leaders. To name just a few who come immediately to mind:

  • Amir Samandi, an educator who founded Students of Service, that develops young leaders who have a global perspective to solve local problems by combining meaningful local community service with informed international experiences.
  • Jasmin Dean, a mother of boys afflicted with dyslexia, who founded Celebrate Dyslexia, to provide solutions in collaboration with parents of dyslexic children, teachers, students, medical professionals and community leaders to furnish evidence-based information that will help them navigate the current education system to ensure children’s individual success regardless of ZIP Code.
  • Hunter Beaton, a Gen Z superstar who, inspired by the first-hand experience of siblings, founded Day 1 Bags, that offers dignity through giving new bags and backpacks to foster and at-risk youth in need.

Each of these unsung heroes had to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds to bring their dreams to fruition. We are so proud to count them among our learning community. And there are so many others who tirelessly commit time, talent and treasure to improve the world.

When Martin Luther King Jr, spoke on August 28, 1963 in front of the Lincoln Memorial and challenged America to get on the right side of history, he didn’t say “I have a strategic plan.” He said something else. Of course, those words are forever etched in our memory and inspire future generations: I have a dream!

When you get down to it, that is the common denominator among the millions of non-profits in the U.S. They all have visions of how they can contribute to education, economic development, health care, arts and culture, human services, animal welfare and a more socially just world. Our task in fundraising is to inspire donor prospects to believe in, embrace and invest their precious gifts of time and money in making those visions of a better world move from dream to reality. We admire all of you with those noble dreams and joining together in our learning we want to help you bring them to fruition.

$500 Billion

Headlines might stress negatives like the fact that the stock market drop and economic uncertainty led to a decrease after giving surpassed half-trillion-dollar milestone during the pandemic era. But the bottom line from Giving USA 2023 highlights that individuals, bequests, foundations and corporations gave an estimated $499.33 billion to U.S. charities in 2022. Total giving decreased in 2022, a relatively rare occurrence usually seen during years with difficult or unusual economic conditions. Giving was influenced by stock market volatility and economic uncertainty. Total giving declined 3.4% in current dollars — down 10.5% after adjusting for inflation — from a revised total of $516.65 billion in 2021. The 2022 results follow the two best years on record for charitable giving, including 2021 when giving surpassed $500 billion for the first time. For perspective, total charitable giving has fallen only three other times in the last 40 years in current dollars: in 1987, 2008 and 2009. But this still documents philanthropy as a vast and wondrous annual enterprise of ½ trillion dollars a year, or $1.4 million a day. Philanthropy is amazingly resilient and has boldly rebounded in the past, and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t in the future.


After sponsoring more than 200 live workshops and webinars, Eskin Fundraising Training Non-Profit Empowerment series can’t wait to take the next step in our journey by partnering with Texas A&M University-San Antonio that will elevate our programs to the next level by combining the best of both worlds of live TV audience interaction connected to a much larger Zoom audience. We will continue to emphasize the “learning community” approach in which all participants are encouraged to share their personal insights through comments and questions, and network. The basic format features my interviews with subject matter experts in their areas of specialization. Then both live and Zoom professional and volunteer non-profit attendees will be encouraged to share their questions and comments. The hybrid format kicks off this summer. Broadcast from the Texas A&M University-San Antonio TV studios, the opening schedule features:

  • July 19th: “Communicating with Donors” featuring Kelli Newman, APR, President, Newman & Newman, Inc.
  • August 2nd: “What Do Foundations Want?” featuring Cody Knowlton, President & CEO, Baptist Health Foundation of San Antonio.
  • August 16th: “Power of Collective Giving Circles” featuring Angelle St. Germain, President, Impact San Antonio. Watch for your invitations to these interactive learning community events.

Upbeat News

Non-profits entered this year on a more positive financial footing than many leaders initially feared during the pandemic and the high inflationary period that followed. Many also are continuing to enjoy the fruits of an increased level of trust from funders whose philanthropic giving proved vital in tiding them over these last few years. However, persistent concerns about staffing retention and burnout remain a top challenge for organizational leaders.

The Center for Effective Philanthropy released findings via its State of Nonprofits 2023 report. Researchers for the organization compiled the 24-page white paper from responses provided by leaders of 284 foundation-funded non-profits. Encouragingly, despite economic challenges, more than half of non-profits (55%) ended last year with a surplus and another 22% had a balanced budget. Most leaders expect the financial outlook to remain positive with 46% expecting their organizations to break even financially and 23% anticipating a surplus this fiscal year. Less than one fourth (22%) had a deficit last year, and a similar proportion (23%) anticipate a deficit for this year. For those reporting a surplus, higher than expected foundation revenue was the most frequently cited contributor with lower-than-expected costs and higher than expected individual giving also playing a role. The increased foundation support has been accompanied by what many non-profit leaders say has been an increase in trust-based philanthropy including streamlined grant application processes, removal of restrictions on the use of grants, and receipt of multi-year funding from foundations.


The work of the Kendeda Fund began in 1993 under the leadership of Diana Blank, a philanthropist with twin passions for social equity and the healing power of our natural environment. Guided by her vision, the fund supports the dignity of individuals and the sustainability of communities through investments in transformative leaders and ideas. For more than a quarter century, Kendeda –named for Diana’s three children — has been making grants to empower communities across the nation and around the globe to confront challenges through solutions that increase equity, vibrancy, resourcefulness, and resilience. In all they do, the Fund helps build and sustain social and community capital by supporting under-represented voices as well as leaders who have the vision to see problems differently and the courage to challenge conventional thinking. The Kendeda Fund has invested more than $900 million since its inception — much of it given with use when and where needed most flexibility, and currently makes $50 to $60 million in grants annually. They also believe it is important to accomplish as much as possible within the lifetime of the founder, whether through near term philanthropic investments or long-term projects that require more time to bear fruit. To that end, Kendeda is committed to spending out the majority of its assets by the end of 2023.

Social Donors

New OneCause research finds that social donor loyalty continues to trend upward as non-profits regain momentum and re-establish fundraising equilibrium. Of the 1,101 social donors surveyed who donated to or participated in a non-profit event or peer-to-peer campaign in the last 12 months, 75% said they would definitely sponsor or participate in another event at the same organization. This is up 5 percentage points from last year, and 9 points since 2021. In addition to a rise in social donor loyalty, other key findings include:

  • Social giving is getting back to “normal.” During the pandemic, the number of social donors grew. As more people and households dramatically increased their average screentime, so did their access and participation in online giving opportunities.
  • In-person events are back in a big way, and donors expect quality. Eight in 10 social donors reported that their last giving experience was in person.
  • Mission, trust, and ease share the podium as top generosity motivators. Social donors seem to be returning to their passions when it comes to philanthropy, with mission being the top motivator in this year’s study.
  • Social donor demographics indicate narrowing access. During the pandemic, social giving opened doors for younger, more diverse donors. However, in this year’s data, demographics are shifting back to pre-pandemic levels.
  • There are new opportunities for social donor retention and recurring giving. Certain groups of social donors — such as event donors, Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, men, donors who gave $500 or more, and urban donors — reported being more likely to become regular annual or monthly donors.


The Board of Trustees of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute has announced the formation of the new non-partisan Center on Public Civility to be led by media executive and Reagan Foundation Board Chairman Frederick J. Ryan, Jr. The Center will promote constructive solutions to address the deep divisions and discord in America. The decline of civility and respect is posing a significant threat to the foundation of our democracy. Divisiveness and lack of trust are damaging our political process and causing Americans to lose faith in its institutions and their leaders. This toxic environment in politics and social media and, increasingly across our society, is making it more difficult for us to find common ground and act for the greater good of our nation. Americans overwhelmingly agree that we must return to an era of civility and mutual respect. The Center on Public Civility will be a catalyst in this critical effort and invites individuals and institutions from across the country to become part of this initiative.


For organizations that feel their marketing can benefit from more leadership buy-in and greater resources, fear not! Part of Mighty Citizen’s inspiration for creating The Mighty GPS — and for compiling this year-long study– ­­is to empower organizations with an objective, data-driven tool they can use to make a strong case for more resources. Key trends and benchmarks:

  • Research & Analytics is the weakest area of marketing including: Data and analytics; Competitor audits; User personas; Audience surveys and interviews; Usability testing.
  • The most mature marketing teams check these boxes: Have documented communication strategies; Establish consensus on their messaging; Set specific and measurable goals; Optimize their marketing technology systems; Enforce strict protocols for how content is imagined, created, and promoted
  • Organizations with leaders who believe in the value of marketing have an overall higher marketing maturity.
  • When it comes to technology, organizations struggle the most with seamless tech integrations and making the most of their marketing automation platforms. Teams who feel they have sufficient marketing budgets to reach their goals have an overall higher marketing maturity. Mission-driven organizations excel at using digital media but aren’t consistently measuring their results. 


In addition to being dreamers, inspirational professional and volunteer non-profit leaders also profoundly qualify for the rarefied air label of heroes. They are heroes in every sense of the meaning for the magnanimous style in which they cast self-interests aside and openly and enthusiastically embrace huge challenges and accept huge sacrifices. Our thanks to Bloomerang for featuring our blog on this important topic.

On Bookshelf: Generosity to Justice

In From Generosity to Justice: A New Gospel of Wealth, Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation, articulates a bold vision for philanthropy in the 21st century, joined by an array of thinkers, activists, and leaders from every field, sector, and walk of life. Drawing inspiration from Andrew Carnegie’s original “The Gospel of Wealth,” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s incisive insights on philanthropy, and writer and critic Anand Giridharadas’s probing distinction between generosity and justice, this New Gospel convenes some of the most important voices in philanthropy to ask and offer answers to a vital question: If there’s a continuum between generosity and justice, how do we push our work closer to the latter? With contributions from Laurene Powell Jobs, Ai-jen Poo, Kenneth Frazier, Carly Hare, Elizabeth Alexander, and more, Walker challenges and emboldens readers to consider philanthropy as a tool for achieving economic, social, and political justice. That task requires humility, moral courage, and an unwavering commitment to democratic values and institutions. It demands that all members of society recognize their privilege and position, address the root causes of social ills, and seek out and listen to those who live amid and experience injustice. What began in Carnegie’s day as a manual for generosity is now reimagined as a guide to move us closer to justice — a guide to help each of us find a way to contribute.


I credit my lifelong friend, Dr. Chuck Pozner, for enlightening me on BATNA which is an acronym that stands for 

Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement. It is defined as the most advantageous alternative that a negotiating party can take if negotiations fail, and an agreement cannot be made. In other words, a party’s BATNA is what a party’s alternative is if negotiations are unsuccessful. The term BATNA was originally used by Roger Fisher and William Ury in their 1981 book entitled Getting to Yes: Negotiating Without Giving In. BATNA is often used in negotiation tactics and should always be considered before a negotiation takes place. It is never wise to enter into a serious negotiation without knowing your BATNA. The value of knowing your best alternative to a negotiated agreement is that: (a) An alternative if negotiations fall through: (b) Negotiating power; and (c) Determination of your reservation point (the worst price you are willing to accept). Non-profit leaders would be wise to acquaint themselves with this valuable stratagem.

Quiz: Best BBQ Cities

Americans are passionate about their BBQ foods, with conversations around the grill often sparking fiery debates over which is best: North Carolina style vs. Kansas City style, wet rub vs. dry rub, or brisket vs. pork. Perhaps no topic gets eaters more heated than where to find the best BBQ in the U.S. Clever ranked the 50 largest metro areas in the U.S. using several metrics highlighted by restaurants per capita, Yelp ratings of restaurants and affordability. Match the following 15 top finishers with their respective rank (with 1 being the best and 15 being the lowest). Answers are shown at the bottom of the page.

1. Austin                                a. 1

2. Kansas City                      b. 2

3. Las Vegas                         c. 3

4. San Antonio                     d. 5

5. San Jose                            e. 10

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

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