Stratagems, June 2022

Non-Profit Villages

Non-profit leaders who are scared of asking someone they know for a gift for their favorite causes, who constitute a vast majority of the non-profit sector, should keep this in perspective: The ask, though critically important, is but one moment in the much larger cycle that defines the relationship between donor and organization. If the other parts of the gift continuum, especially cultivation and stewardship aren’t carried out robustly, it doesn’t matter how good or persuasive the solicitor is, they will typically come back empty-handed. If they are carried out robustly, the solicitor is in a much stronger position. As I’ve said many times before, donors face this dilemma: With finite resources, they’re not choosing between the good and the bad but between the good and the good. The non-profit must work hard and work smart to align its mission with donor prospect’s values, interests and priorities. For major gifts, this typically takes more time to build awareness, affinity and trust. There is much more to forging a lasting bond that an artful solicitation. The goal is not a transactional relationship that culminates with a single gift but a true friendship that over the course of a lifetime grows closer and closer with a comparable growth in the precious gifts of money and time. Far from just one representative who makes the ask will ultimately determine the donor prospect’s decision on to provide support, and how much. This will hinge on the board, management and staff who provide the program and services, other donors and the beneficiaries of the mission. To paraphrase Hillary Clinton, it takes an entire non-profit village to succeed and move forward. So, in a very real sense, the solicitor is never asking by him or herself. They represent the commitment, accomplishments and promise of their entire organization. Now don’t get me wrong, a skilled solicitor does and should make a substantive difference. But they never travel alone, and the good ones fully understand that truth. Read my guest column on LinkedIn for more on this important theme.

Encouraging Data

Charitable giving continued to grow in 2021 in response to the ongoing needs associated with the pandemic. While the world adjusts to a new normal, the growth in giving exceeded nearly everyone’s expectations. Not only did both overall giving and online giving grow, but the average donor was more generous than ever. In 2021, charitable giving in the U.S. grew by 9% based on a careful analysis of $46.4 billion in donations by the Blackbaud Institute. Additionally, an analysis of $2.9 billion in online donations tells us that online giving grew by 9% compared to 2020. The recovery of giving in late 2020 and the surge in online donations continued into 2021. Organizations of all sizes continued to grow despite ongoing challenges and increased needs. Donors increased their generosity with average gift amounts reaching new highs across the non-profit sector. In years past, it was common for overall giving and online donations to fall back to normal levels following major episodic events. That was not the case in 2021. Giving not only recovered but grew more than it has in a decade. Online giving also grew and remained near record highs across several metrics. When we zoom out over three years, there are other positive trends taking place. Overall giving grew 19% and online giving grew 42% since 2019. Organizations with fundraising programs hard-hit by COVID-19 showed resilience and a return to growth in 2021 as well. In 2020, 13% of fundraising came from online giving — a significant milestone in fundraising. In 2021, it hovered at 12%, and there are no signs of it turning back. Small, medium, and large non-profits in the U.S. now raise more than 10% of their fundraising through online giving. The non-profit sector has shown a remarkable ability to adjust to the new normal. These positive fundraising trends show that change can be beneficial, and adaptability is an asset.

Fundraisers on The Strip

For the first time in three years the AFP ICON was held in person in early May at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Nearly 3,000 fundraisers and people in related industries gathered together to challenge the future through more than 100 education programs and general sessions. I didn’t attend but have received stimulating reports. A common thread — it appears to be since our environment has changed so dramatically, we should not only not be afraid, but we should welcome opportunities to challenge the status quo. Ask yourselves: What would you include if you had a do-over and build your resource development program from scratch. It’s time to re-evaluate what we do and how we do it. Special events for example — do we really need to depend on them so much, or perhaps should we replace them with other tactics that might be more cost-effective. ICON recordings will be available in late May … we can’t wait to review them. The keynote speaker was the inspirational Allyson Felix– the most decorated woman in Olympic track and field history and the most decorated American track and field athlete in Olympic history. Her amazing accomplishments include winning 29 global medals at the Olympics and World Championships. At this stage of her career Allyson is using her celebrity-dom to champion good causes. She has found passions off the track which she believes are her true calling. She loves children and serves as a member of the Right To Play board hoping to raise awareness for underserved children in developing regions. She continues to strive for greatness in all areas reminding us that we all can achieve things we never dreamed of. Success of a conference is not so much we enjoy it, but how we can return and improve our fundraising operations. AFP conferences have a tradition of measuring up to that standard.


You heard it here first: The indefatigable Laura Fredricks, who has already authored six books, revealed during her latest appearance in our webinar series that seven is a lucky number, and, we don’t know how she finds the time, but she is working on a new book that will pull together the wisdom and inspiration of her first six books and introduce new insights on THE ASK. I am pretty sure there’s no one else on the planet who is better at demystifying the art and science of asking as the gateway to getting what you want and deserve out of life. We were on the phone the other day and I asked her to share a few highlights of her career, so she sent me the long form. Put it this way: I don’t know what groups she hasn’t spoken to, media interviews she hasn’t done and what awards she hasn’t won. Go to her website to sign up to receive updates on the new book and how to be among the first to get a copy. I’m no dummy because I am the first person to register on this special list. I’ve enjoyed all her books — they are genuine page turners, and she has played such a pivotal role in inspiring me to follow in her huge steps of empowering professional and volunteer fundraisers to overcome their fear of asking for gifts and replacing such fear with comfort and confidence. The new book will become available next year. You can watch a replay of Laura’s webinar with us here.

Poet Laureate

We have unofficially anointed Dr. Russell James, Professor of Charitable Financial Planning, Texas Tech University the well-earned title of Poet Laureate of Philanthropy Research. He relentlessly researches, publishes, speaks and presents on research that encourages generosity. He does a magnificent job of simplifying so-called complex concepts through easy-to-understand language, visuals and superb stories. He was generous with his time and shared key findings during a recent webinar. Borrowing from the movie City Slickers, he says if there’s one big thing, he’s learned over the years; It’s this: Advance the donor’s hero story. It’s a simple, five-word sentence. What exactly do these words mean? For compelling fundraising storytelling, they have special meanings. A story uses character and plot. In fundraising, it must evoke a clear image that generates social emotion and does so without logical error detection. Other key takeaways from his recent webinar:
(1) The most important transformation you can make with your donors is to shift them towards giving from their wealth, rather than their disposable income.
(2) For estate gifts, make sure to connect donors’ life stories to their planned impact.
(3) For estate gifts, don’t ignore your oldest friends even when they stop giving.
(4) Donors can make smarter estate gifts by naming a charity as beneficiary of a retirement account.
(5) Donors can make smarter current gifts by giving appreciated assets, like stock. This can be done even without changing the portfolio! 

Personal Income

A quarterly update to the state personal income indicator for Pew Research’s Fiscal 50 project shows that total personal income climbed in every state during the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic as the economy continued to recover, with Idaho and South Dakota experiencing the strongest gains. Americans’ earnings from work, which account for the bulk of personal income, recorded the sharpest annual increase in over two decades. Federal aid and other public assistance also added to states’ gains, surpassing 2020’s elevated levels. Total personal income rose across states in 2021 as the economy largely followed an upward trajectory after severe losses early in the pandemic. Nationally, the sum of personal income from all sources was up 3.1% from 2020, after accounting for inflation. Idaho recorded the nation’s largest total annual personal income growth — 5.3%, after accounting for inflation. Significant gains in construction, retail trade, and other industries boosted total earnings, while the state also experienced among the sharpest increases in government assistance. South Dakota (5.1%) similarly benefited from strong growth in both government aid and workers’ earnings as farm income soared. Other states with the largest annual increases included Florida and Nebraska (both 5%), and New Hampshire (4.7%). Vermont (0.3%) and Michigan (1%) experienced the weakest growth for the year as higher work-related earnings were partially offset by declines in government assistance income.

Hail Dreamers

At last count there are about 7 billion people on the planet living in about 200 different countries. One special lady — Margi Helschien from Boca Raton, who is very active in our learning community, recognizes that there is so much more that we have in common than what separates us. So, she formed a non-profit, America Connected, with an entirely non-political and non-partisan approach which is all about cultural diplomacy to bring nations and peoples of the world closer together. The need for such a proactive organization has never been as pressing and timely! She has personally visited 11 different countries and has observed that in each nation the people love their country as much as Americans do. We can all get along better by celebrating respect for different cultures, ways of doing things and thinking. Technology has opened doors of communication that are parents and grandparents could never dream of — providing bridges of understanding. Margi has robustly embraced this experience. A good example is the Sheik shown in the photo who Margi met in Dubai. They enjoyed a conversation in which he emphasized his interest in doing more business with the U.S. and Western nations and through respecting similarities and differences we can be good business partners. Right now, America Connected is concentrating on has three core programs:
• In person, virtual and hybrid educational forums;
• International educational trips;
• And the centerpiece is a TV show, In Search of Incredible, that will be viewed over social media.
Like most unsung heroes who have launched non-profits, Margi is not only a dreamer, but she backs that up with amazing energy, creativity and persistence. Margi will be leading our webinar on June 29th on the topic, Healthy Fundraisers are Successful Fundraisers, and share her mind, body and soul insights based on her rich background as a competitive gymnast, owner of a gymnastics school and yoga instructor.


Virtually nothing is as essential as thanking our donors enthusiastically and quickly for their gifts of time and money, no matter what the amount is. One of the things I cherish about our profession is the opportunity to learn from colleagues every day. I want to share a best practice I learned from an outstanding colleague here in San Antonio, Steve Herlich, Vice President of Development, Morningside Ministries, who provides strong leadership to the profession by serving on the boards of both our local AFP and Planned Giving Council. When a donor responds promptly to the solicitation here’s what Steve emphasizes in his thank you message:
Q: You know what’s even nicer than generosity?
A: Prompt generosity!
Every day we can learn from smart practitioners like Steve who are eager to share best practices that they have noticed are effective. Please share some of your favorite stewardship practices with our learning community and we will feature them in future newsletters.


Eskin Fundraising Training is grateful to Jeff Jowdy, President, Lighthouse Counsel for featuring us on his Beacon Podcast series to discuss our common sense approach to fundraising training and our book, 10 Simple Fundraising Lessons. After a distinguished career as a practitioner, Jeff launched his agency in 1999 and has partnered with a wide range of non-profits to develop and implement strategies that increase mission awareness, organizational effectiveness and philanthropic support. We continue our collaboration when Jeff serves as our subject matter expert on High-Performing Development Officers in our Non-Profit Empowerment Webinar series on Wednesday, June 15th, 4 to 5 PM, central time. It is a privilege and pleasure to collaborate with Jeff and his team. His podcasts include some of the most respected voices in philanthropy — so it was a genuine honor to participate. You can listen to the podcast here.

On Bookshelf: A New Watergate History

In the early hours of June 17, 1972, a security guard named Frank Wills enters six words into the log book of the Watergate office complex that will change the course of history: 1:47 AM Found tape on doors; call police. The subsequent arrests of five men seeking to bug and burgle the Democratic National Committee offices — three of them Cuban exiles, two of them former intelligence operatives — quickly unravels a web of scandal that ultimately ends a presidency and forever alters views of moral authority and leadership. Watergate, as the event is called, becomes a shorthand for corruption, deceit, and unanswered questions. You probably thought we didn’t need another book about Watergate. Think again. Now, award-winning journalist and bestselling author Garrett M. Graff, in A New Watergate History explores the full scope of this unprecedented moment from start to finish, in the first comprehensive, single-volume account in decades. The story begins in 1971, with the publication of thousands of military and government documents known as the Pentagon Papers, which reveal dishonesty about the decades-long American presence in Vietnam and spark public outrage. Furious that the leak might expose his administration’s own duplicity during a crucial reelection season, President Richard M. Nixon gathers his closest advisors and gives them implicit instructions: Win by any means necessary. Within a few months, an unsteady line of political dominoes are positioned, from the creation of a series of covert operations code-named GEMSTONE to campaign-trail dirty tricks, possible hostage situations, and questionable fundraising efforts — much of it caught on the White House’s own taping system. One by one they fall, until the thwarted June burglary attracts the attention of intrepid journalists, congressional investigators, and embattled intelligence officers, one of whom will spend decades concealing his identity behind the alias “Deep Throat.” As each faction slowly begins to uncover the truth, a conspiracy deeper and more corrupt than anyone thought possible emerges, and the nation is thrown into a state of crisis as its government — and its leader — unravels. Using newly public documents, transcripts, and revelations, Graff recounts every twist with remarkable detail and page-turning drama, bringing readers into the backrooms of Washington, chaotic daily newsrooms, crowded Senate hearings, and even the Oval Office itself during one of the darkest chapters in American history. Grippingly told and meticulously researched, Watergate is the defining account of the moment that has haunted our nation’s past — and still holds the power to shape its present and future.

Pricey Art

Maybe the image is not racy, like the one of Marilyn Monroe with her dress flying up in the movie “The Seven Year Itch,” but it recently became the priciest. In under four minutes of bidding, Andy Warhol’s 1964 silk-screen of the actress’ face, “Shot Sage Blue Marilyn,” sold for about $195 million to an unknown buyer at Christie’s in New York, making it the highest price achieved for any American work of art at auction. The 40-inch-by-40-inch painting, a trophy given its vibrant colors and glamorous subject matter, eclipsed the previous high price of $110.5 million for a Basquiat skull painting at Sotheby’s in 2017 as well as Warhol’s auction high for a car crash painting that sold for $105.4 million in 2013.

Quiz: Rudest States

YouGov recently asked more than 77,000 people whether they think the people in their state tend to be more rude or more polite than most Americans. Match the following states with the respective ratings given by their citizens with +50 being the nicest and -31 being the rudest on this list. As a favor to the editors don’t take the findings to personally. (By the way, the rudest of the 50 states isn’t included on the list below.) Answers are shown at the bottom of the page.
1. California               a. -31
2. Hawaii                    b. -12
3. Massachusetts       c. -10
4. New York              d. +25
5. Texas                      e. +50

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

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