Stratagems, May 2021


“Being a leader is like being a lady. If you have to remind people you are, you aren’t.” That’s a timeless quote from the Iron Lady, the late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. It vividly conveys that leadership isn’t about titles or photo ops or posturing. Rather it’s about authenticity, standing up for principles, even when it means sailing against the wind. Leadership is the life-breath of the non-profit sector. With strong leadership we can accomplish virtually anything, but without it, it’s a struggle just to make it up the stairs. As presidential inauguration/Super Bowl poet Amanda Gorman so eloquently put it — it is all about The Hill We Climb. The 2020/21 hill we’ve been given to work our way up is like no other in history — so full of pitfalls and challenges that summon our collective conscience, willpower and capacity to come together for the greater good. Non-profit leaders are no strangers to mountain climbing. They been doing it all their lives. They give it their best to advance 1.5 million organizations that touch, improve and save more lives in such profound ways. Andrea and I have enjoyed the privilege of seeing so many non-profit leaders up close and it is truly inspiring. Make no mistake, non-profit leaders come from all different socio-economic backgrounds and they collectively represent a national treasure. Our thanks to NonProfit PRO for featuring our essay on Elements of Non-Profit Leadership in 2021.


Crowdfunding became an increasingly visible giving vehicle during the COVID-19 pandemic. As of March 19, 2020, at the onset of the pandemic in the U.S., the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy reports that more than $1.5 million had been raised on GoFundMe by 10 crowdfunding campaigns in this country alone. Crowdfunding — the raising of capital from a large and diverse pool of donors via online platforms — isn’t a new concept. Although the digital era accelerated its growth, the concept dates back to at least the 18th century when author Jonathan Swift created the Irish Loan Fund to support poor, hardworking tradesmen, much as the 20th century social entrepreneur and Nobel Prize winner Muhammed Yunas did with Grameen Bank in 1976. Four findings from the research stood out:
• Although the percentage of people who are aware of crowdfunding is high (91.5%), far fewer people typically contribute to crowdfunding projects (31.7%).
• Crowdfunding donors tend to be younger, less religious, and more likely to be single as compared to traditional charitable donors.
• The motivations for giving by crowdfunding donors are similar to those of traditional charitable donors: belief in the mission of the organization and belief that your gift can make a difference.
• Both crowdfunding donors and non-crowdfunding donors have positive perceptions of this giving vehicle.

Knowledge Philanthropy

At 71, Marshall Goldsmith, the No. 1 executive coach in the world, is thinking about what’s next. As reported in Forbes, he is giving away his intellectual property for free. Goldsmith realized that after 40 years of coaching the top CEOs, he wants to focus less on being a high achiever and more on helping others be great. He is looking to have the most significant impact on the largest number of people. He also recruited a small army of volunteers to help him accomplish this mammoth task. Goldsmith has impacted the lives of countless world and business leaders. His new Knowledge Philanthropy program lets people adapt his endless library of resources, which he’s made free, to their own culture and institution. Goldsmith says “By helping successful people, you have so much leverage because they can help so many other people and reach those I would be unable to.”

Conversation Prompts

Our job in fundraising is nurturing relationships with donors and prospects that grow into genuine friendships. Naturally, this takes time and quality conversation, and especially the fine art of active listening. We want to make donors and prospects feel as comfortable as possible and talk candidly to us so we can discover their values, interests and priorities, and in doing so find common ground with the missions of our non-profits. The job search firm Ladders recently shared a list of seven short phrases that have demonstrated strong results in getting people to open up and really share what’s important in their lives. We bet many of you are already incorporating these phrases in your daily conversations. If not, try them out.
1. “Can you say that again? I want to write it down.”
2. “Thanks for asking….”
3. “Sorry I interrupted you, I get excited. Please continue.”
4. “I’d love your input on something.”
5. “I know I shouldn’t complain …”
6. “Lately, I’ve been sick of video. But this was fun.”
7. “Do you mind if we turn the video off?”
Bottom line: Everyone loves to be listened to, whether in person or virtually. Show them why you have two ears and only one set of lips. Direct the conversation and listen closely and donor prospects will typically tell you about everything you need to know.

Invest in Social Media

This likely will come as no surprise … social media sits at the center of people’s daily lives and businesses are increasingly reliant on social data to inform strategic decision-making across an organization. Sprout Social research indicates that 85% of business executives report that moving forward social data will be a primary source of business intelligence for their company, and nearly half (46%) expect their company’s social media marketing budget to increase by up to 100% in the next three years. These plans align with consumers’ needs — the data shows that going forward social media is the No. 1 preferred way to learn about brands, ahead of all other channels including email, or TV and print advertising.


It is a genuine source of pride to announce my acceptance into Association of Philanthropic Counsel — a group of independent and small philanthropic consultancy firms from across the nation, who are committed to ensuring that non-profit organizations of all sizes can engage experienced, qualified counsel by strengthening the abilities, growing the resources, and expanding the knowledge and networks of our members. I will become the first member in the San Antonio area, and the third in Texas. The membership includes many of the wisest and most respected members of the profession. Several have participated in our webinar series including Melissa Brown and Abbie J. von Schlegell. Another member, Diana Hoyt, is our guest this coming week and will share her expertise on case for support. I look forward to opportunities to get better acquainted with and learn from these outstanding colleagues who exemplify a wonderful combination of a knowing head and honest heart.

5% Annually

Billionaire philanthropists John and Laura Arnold have committed to donate 5% of their wealth annually as part of an effort to encourage increased, timelier donations to charities. The Arnolds, who live in Houston, are the first billionaires to sign on to the advocacy organization Global Citizen’s “Give While You Live” campaign, which calls on the world’s billionaires to give at least 5% of their wealth every year to a cause. The Arnolds’ pledge came as part of an alliance between Global Citizen and the Arnold-led Initiative to Accelerate Charitable Giving — a coalition of donors, experts and non-profits who want Congress to raise giving requirements

Giving Circles

Philanthropy Together, a year-old non-profit that supports, trains, and launches giving circles worldwide, has rolled out a new global directory of giving circles. The directory is searchable by cause and location and housed on Grapevine, a digital hub for giving circles to make donations and find members. A similar database of the few hundred giving circles that donate through the platform already existed on Grapevine, but the partnership with Philanthropy Together expanded that number to more than 2,150. Individuals with shared values have long come together in giving circles to pool their resources and champion causes. Sara Lomelin, Executive Director of Philanthropy Together, is a longtime believer in giving circles’ potential to activate often overlooked donors who are women and people of color. 

Harvard Yard

Harvard boasts the largest endowment of any university in the world (more than $40 billion) and supplements its finances with hundreds of millions of dollars in donations annually. Despite the scale of Harvard’s philanthropic efforts, a sizable gender disparity persists among the University’s donors. In the fiscal year 2020, 338 individuals, families, foundations, organizations, governments, and other entities donated more than $1 million to Harvard, according to the University’s “Report of Giving.” Eight of them were individual women. They include four Harvard alumni, financial services executives, philanthropists, a former delegate to the United Nations General Assembly, and the Chief Operating Officer at Facebook. The other donors include 51 individual men, 47 non-profits or foundations, eight corporations, 109 couples or families, 13 trusts and estates, and the United Arab Emirates. There were also 101 anonymous donors. But despite encompassing a small fraction of the listed donors, experts say the fact that women are on the list at all reflects shifting gender dynamics and attitudes around money and high-level philanthropy.

On the Bookshelf: Give and Take

Give and Take highlights what effective networking, collaboration, influence, negotiation, and leadership skills have in common. For generations, we have focused on the individual drivers of success: passion, hard work, talent, and luck. But today, success is increasingly dependent on how we interact with others. It turns out that at work, most people operate as either takers, matchers, or givers. Whereas takers strive to get as much as possible from others and matchers aim to trade evenly, givers are the rare breed of people who contribute to others without expecting anything in return. Using his own pioneering research as Wharton’s youngest tenured professor, Adam Grant, shows that these styles have a surprising impact on success. Although some givers get exploited and burn out, the rest achieve extraordinary results across a wide range of industries. Combining cutting-edge evidence with captivating stories, this book shows how one of America’s best networkers developed his connections, why the creative genius behind one of the most popular shows in television history toiled for years in anonymity, how a basketball executive responsible for multiple draft busts transformed his franchise into a winner, and how we could have anticipated Enron’s demise four years before the company collapsed — without ever looking at a single number.

The COVID 29

As growing vaccine demand signals a potential turning point in the global COVID-19 pandemic, the nation’s health crisis is far from over. One year after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, many adults report undesired changes to their weight, increased drinking and other negative behavior changes that may be related to an inability to cope with prolonged stress, according to the American Psychological Association’s latest Stress in America poll. APA’s survey of U.S. adults, conducted in late February by The Harris Poll, shows that a majority of adults (61%) experienced undesired weight changes — weight gain or loss — since the pandemic started, with 42% reporting they gained more weight than they intended. Of those, they gained an average of 29 pounds (the median amount gained was 15 pounds) and 10% said they gained more than 50 pounds, the poll found. Such changes come with significant health risks, including higher vulnerability to serious illness from the coronavirus. For the 18% of Americans who said they lost more weight than they wanted to, the average amount of weight lost was 26 pounds (median amount lost was 12 pounds). Adults also reported unwanted changes in sleep and increased alcohol consumption. Two in 3 (67%) said they have been sleeping more or less than desired since the pandemic started. Nearly 1 in 4 adults (23%) reported drinking more alcohol to cope with their stress.

Quiz: The World's Richest

It’s been a year like no other, and we aren’t talking about the pandemic. There were rapid-fire public offerings, surging cryptocurrencies and skyrocketing stock prices. The number of billionaires on Forbes’ 35th annual list of the world’s wealthiest exploded to an unprecedented 2,755 — 660 more than a year ago. Altogether they are worth $13.1 trillion, up from $8 trillion on the 2020 list. Match the following billionaires with their estimated wealth (which can vary enormously week to week). Answers are at the bottom of this page.
1. Jeff Bezos              a. $96 Billion
2. Warren Buffett     b. $97 Billion
3. Bill Gates               c. $124 Billion
4. Elon Musk             d. $151 Billion
5. Mark Zuckerberg  e. $177 Billion

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

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