Stratagems, May 2022

It's All About Trust

One of the more encouraging trends in addition to record-setting philanthropy we’ve witnessed over the last few years in response to the pandemic is funders letting non-profits and recipients of their generosity decide how money can be best spent. This has long been known as unrestricted giving. For various reasons, non-profits — especially those who needed those type of dollars the most — were reluctant to ask for support that they could use when and where needed the most. MacKenzie Scott has blazed an amazing leadership trail in this direction, awarding more than $12 billion to more than 1,250 non-profits and proudly and humbly proclaiming that they more than she would know how to best spend those dollars to touch, improve and save more lives. She wasn’t alone. The Ford and Rockefeller Foundations and other major funders stepped up in awarding grants with maximum flexibility for recipients. In the foundation world these are typically known as grants for general operating support. This makes good sense. When people invest in corporations and purchase shares of stock, they don’t restrict their money to specific areas such as research and development, marketing and others. They expect the corporations to know how to best use their dollars and then prudently report on the return on investment. Why should the non-profit sector be any different? We also salute The Trust-Based Philanthropy Project as a peer-to-peer learning and advocacy initiative to make trust-based practices the norm in philanthropy. Recognizing the inherent power imbalance between foundations and non-profits, they believe philanthropy will be more successful, rewarding, and effective if funders approach their grantee relationships from a place of trust, humility and transparency. Trust is arguably the most precious commodity in philanthropy, and by earning it, non-profits and good causes can achieve amazing results. And donors, by placing their trust wisely, become dynamic partners in championing good works.

Data Update

Fundraising Effectiveness Project’s (FEP) 4th Quarter Fundraising Report shows that buoyed by large donors, as well as donors who were acquired by an organization in 2020 and continued their support in 2021, overall charitable giving increased by 2.7% in 2021. FEP is a collaboration among fundraising data providers, researchers, analysts, associations, and consultants to empower the sector to track and evaluate trends in giving. The project offers one of the only views of the current year’s fundraising data in aggregate to provide the most recent trends for guiding non-profit fundraising and donor engagement. While giving increased in 2021, the number of donors declined by 5.7%, primarily due to charities having challenges in finding new donors and inspiring “lapsed” donors — those who have given in one year but haven’t given since — to give again. On the other hand, new donors who gave to a charity for the first time in 2020 and gave again to the same charity in 2021, increased by an extraordinary 26%. FEP leaders counseled that since 2020 was such an outlier, comparing results between 2019 and 2021 would be more helpful to charities looking for trends and strategies. Such a comparison shows that overall giving increased by 11% from 2019 to 2021, while the overall number of donors dropped by less than 1%.

Informal Giving

A holistic approach to measuring generosity requires looking beyond financial transactions. If we continue to look at “giving” as being defined as monetary transactions between donors, institutional foundations and registered charities, we’re looking at only a small piece of the full picture. The world of giving is interconnected and interdependent, involving human behavior, cultural traditions, giving efforts both structured and unstructured, and grassroots leadership, all of which have enormous daily, local, and global impact. The GivingTuesday Data Commons investigated community care, mutual aid, and other types of informal giving within the U.S., Canada, Mexico, United Kingdom, Brazil, India, and Kenya. The research provides their first broad view of patterns of non-monetary generosity around the world. This is not to say that one form of giving is preferable over others. On the contrary, understanding the diverse landscape of generosity shows us that encouraging more types of giving begets more giving of all types. Key takeaways:
  • In many countries giving tends to happen through unincorporated networks rather than registered organizations. Indeed, in places that exhibited strong cultures of giving, the mechanisms are often not dominated by non-profit organizations or registered charities.
  • The survey results cast a different light on giving data in the U.S. We tend to view the U.S. as the most generous country, but that’s incorrect as that view is only looking at one structure of giving that doesn’t exist everywhere else.
  • Participants in mutual aid networks tend to be more philanthropically inclined in general. They are also less likely to see distinctions between various forms of giving or between giving to organizations and other recipients.
  • In most places around the world, generosity is the default behavior, not considered as something extra, but ingrained in their cultures and societies.
  • People around the world express their generosity in many ways. No matter where, it is rare that people only give in one way.
  • 12% of respondents indicated they had participated in a mutual aid network in the past 12 months.
  • 76% of younger respondents (18-34) agreed with the statement “I prefer to give directly to individuals-in-need, and not via non-profit organizations, platforms, or websites,” while 46% of those 50+ agreed with the same statement.

Employee Ownership

A combination of investment houses, pension funds, non-profits and individual investors have signed on to a non-profit’s plan to raise and invest $20 billion into employee ownership programs. Ownership Works launched last year as a 501(c)(3) and combines at least 60 private, public and non-profit sector partners. The plan is to develop and help implement broad-based employee ownership programs to create better work environments and financial opportunities for employees, and to help businesses improve their performance by attracting and retaining engaged employees who are invested in their company’s success. This movement is about working in concert to create a future of work where employers and employees can win together. Some 19 asset management and financial services firms have committed to providing Ownership Works with charitable donations, as well as a range of programmatic support. 

Matching Gifts

Employer matching gift programs are some of the most impactful ways to inspire generosity among donors⁠ on an individual and a corporate level.
When a donor gives to a non-profit, their employer financially matches the donation, often at a 1:1 rate. That usually means tons of free money for organizations like yours⁠ — especially when you align your corporate fundraising strategies with major gifts. An estimated 65% of Fortune 500 companies offer matching gift programs, with over 26 million individuals working for those companies. What’s shocking is that these amounts are measured in the billions — $4 billion to $7 billion in matching gift funds that go unclaimed every year. 
How can your team make the most of these powerful giving opportunities?
From our friends at DonorSearch, here are four critical tips for elevating corporate gift-matching efforts and driving more matching gifts to completion:
  • Share general information on corporate matching gift programs.
  • Mention matching gifts directly in your fundraising appeals.
  • Send post-donation matching gift reminder emails.
  • Leverage matching gift software to automate efforts.

$6 Billion Mystery

In an inconspicuous fashion — via a regulatory filing with the S.E.C. — Elon Musk disclosed that he gave nearly $6 billion worth of Tesla shares to charity last year, instantly propelling him into the upper ranks of philanthropic donors. But the document gave little information about where the Tesla C.E.O. directed his wealth. Musk is one of the richest people in human history, with a net worth of roughly $260 billion. But he emphasizes that it’s still hard to give away money to do good. When asked about the goals of his foundation, Musk said he cares more about the outcomes, not optics, of philanthropy. This, he says, makes it harder for him to give away money “effectively.” “If you care about the reality of doing good and not the perception of doing good, then it is very hard to give away money effectively,” he said. “I care about reality. Perception be damned.” Despite what he described as a challenge to philanthropic efforts, Musk added, “I’m always looking for ways to give away money that are effective.”

Agree to Disagree

Life would be pretty boring if we all agreed with each other on everything, and the learning curve would be compromised. Most of the non-profits I’ve had the privilege to work with demonstrated the capacity to hold healthy debates among board members, management, staff, donors and volunteers. These debates have empowered organizations to make prudent and more inclusive decisions. Jimmy LaRose is like a force of nature and his work as an entrepreneur, author, fundraiser, speaker and co-founder of NANOE (National Association of Nonprofit Organizations & Executives) has raised hundreds of millions of dollars around the world for people in need. He has devoted his 30-year career to changing the way donors treat the charities in whom they invest. He is the creator of InsideCharity, an online media platform used by philanthropists to build financial capacity for non-profits that invoke the same free-market enterprise principles that produced their own personal wealth. Does everyone agree with Jimmy’s forcefully articulated positions about philanthropy? Certainly not. I don’t! But Jimmy has always been willing to listen respectfully and provide space for me on his several websites to articulate opinions and views that he does not agree with. Here’s an essay he ran on the InsideCharity website on this timely subject. Agreeing to disagree will just make the philanthropic sector stronger.

Kennedy and Non-Profits

Groundwork Project began with a simple question: When it comes to creating sustainable and long-term progressive change, what is the most effective way to make an impact? A magical name is attached to it. Over four terms in Congress, Joe Kennedy built a powerful network of supporters and volunteers across the country, as well as some of the largest digital platforms in the Democratic Party. After closing his Congressional career, he was determined to not let them sit idle but instead redirect them towards a place where they could make a difference for years to come. A place where their support could be channeled to the people doing the foundational progressive work on the most pressing issues we face. So, they dug deep at home and across the country, connecting with local advocates, activists, and leaders fighting for the progressive movement’s futures, from Brockton, Massachusetts to Lincoln, Nebraska, to Jackson, Mississippi and a whole lot of places in between. The answer to our question quickly became clear because it was the same, whether they were talking to someone from West Virginia, Florida, or Tennessee: The single most impactful place to direct time and resources is to local community organizers fighting year-round on the ground for change. Their grants are extra impactful because they are purposely multi-year, unrestricted and hyper-local.

License Plates for a Cause

The Montana Department of Justice announced that the Motor Vehicle Division helped raise over $5,669,311 in 2021 for Montana non-profits. Currently, the state offers more than 200 specialty plates that represent a variety of organizations, including veterans, colleges and universities and service groups. Specialty plate fees range from $2 to $35, and the non-profit must sell 400 plates over three years in order to keep their status. During the vehicle registration process, Montanans have the opportunity to select a specialty plate. The donation fee between $20 and $35 is set by the plate sponsor and goes to the non-profit organization associated with the license plate in addition to the $10 administrative cost and $10 production cost.

On the Bookshelf: Dewey Defeats Truman

On the eve of the 1948 election, America was a fractured country. Racism was rampant, foreign relations were fraught, and political parties were more divided than ever. Americans were certain that President Harry S. Truman’s political career was over. “The ballots haven’t been counted,” noted political columnist Fred Othman, “but there seems to be no further need for holding up an affectional farewell to Harry Truman.” Truman’s own staff did not believe he could win. Nor did his wife, Bess. The only man in the world confident that Truman would win was Mr. Truman himself. And win he did. 1948 was a fight for the soul of a nation. In Dewey Defeats Truman, A. J. Baime sheds light on one of the most action-packed six months in American history, as Truman not only triumphs, but oversees watershed events — the passing of the Marshall Plan, the acknowledgement of Israel as a new state, the careful attention to the origins of the Cold War, and the first desegregation of the military. Not only did Truman win the election, he succeeded in guiding his country forward at a critical time with high stakes and haunting parallels to the modern day. History buffs are guaranteed to love every page.

Flexible Options for Events

Fundraising events have taken on an entirely different form in the past two years, with many shifting to online venues or some hybrid component of in-person and virtual. Each supporter or donor is different in how they feel about attending events and a new survey precisely examines their preferences when it comes to their attendance. The 2022 Fundraising Event Experience Report by Classy, surveyed 1,000 people who attended fundraising events between January 2020 and February 2022. More than a quarter of respondents (26%) attended events in person while 21% attended virtually because the event was 100% virtual. Twenty percent attended in person, but the event had a virtual component as well. Almost as many (19%) did not attend any events since before the pandemic and another 15% attended from home but the event had an in-person component as well. Authors of the 22-page report suggested that the flexibility of multiple attendance options attracts supporters. Some 35% of respondents attended fundraising events that gave them the option to participate in-person or virtually. Events that are strictly in-person or 100% virtual could deter a significant group of attendees who value the opportunity to choose, they argue.

Quiz: Where Non-Profits Are

America’s 1.5 million charitable non-profits feed, heal, shelter, educate, inspire, enlighten, and nurture people of every age, gender, race, and socio-economic status, from coast to coast, border to border, and beyond. They foster civic engagement and leadership, drive economic growth, and strengthen the fabric of our communities. They are located in each of the 50 states. To answer this question, match the following states with the number of non-profits located in them. Answers are shown at the bottom of the page.
1. California          a. 49,000
2. Florida           b. 75,000
3. Illinois             c. 82,000
4. New York         d. 97,000
5. Texas          e. 145,000

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=b, 3=a, 4=c, 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.