Stratagems, October 2023


Though it is not officially counted by Giving USA or others measuring philanthropy outputs, the so-called little things that we do daily to assist neighbors and friends fit comfortably within the realm of voluntary sharing of time, talent and treasure, especially when helping those who are struggling. The list is long and varied as men and women pitch in to help out others by watching kids, pet sitting, picking up groceries, giving rides to medical appointments and the like. During the pandemic, these giving by kindness acts were never so timely as we needed each other more than on any other occasion in recent memory. It is in the American character to help out others in their time of need since the dawn of our nation and settling the West. Another profound example is providing help when hardship strikes such as the loss of loved ones, a fire or natural disasters. This is America at its finest: We share and care and take care of one another in the truest meaning of community. By the way, while we lack strong empirical data on the subject, we feel very confident in asserting that those who embrace giving by kindness are more likely to share time and money with non-profits.

October is Ethics Month

Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), with 31,000+ members in some 240 chapters who raise more than $100 billion annually, celebrates ethics because as much as anything else it makes philanthropy and fundraising possible. Without ethics, giving doesn’t happen. Fundraising doesn’t happen. Change and impact don’t happen. Fundraising is a profession directed at nurturing friendships that culminate in precious gifts. There is no way that is possible without earning and maintaining trust. I love the expression that fundraising occurs at the speed of trust. Ethics isn’t an option but a necessity. We simply aren’t going to be successful if donors don’t have faith in us. They must have full confidence that we and the organizations we serve are going to do what we say we’re going to do and fulfill their philanthropic intent. Some of the time doing the right thing is pretty easy. But there are also occasions where it takes courage and standing up to supervisors and donors who ask for actions that clearly cross the line of acceptability. While AFP celebrates in October, ethics is essential all the time. So, the goal for Ethics Awareness Month is simple: Helping you see yourself in ethical fundraising, growing your ethical radar. and demonstrating your commitment to the highest standards of the profession.   

Nominate Favorite Non-Profit North Stars

Our new podcast series is off and running. The inaugural episode saluted Barb Oliver, one of seven founders and Director of Operations for Sound Foundations NW. What a difference she has made attacking homelessness in the greater Seattle area! Her unrelenting drive and inspiration that has motivated thousands of volunteers to join the cause has culminated in over 400 tiny transitional homes to profoundly change the lives and outlook of formerly homeless men, women and children. You can listen to her amazing story here. We need your help to salute the stories of other men and women across the country who, like Barb, merit recognition and admiration. Think about friends, neighbors, colleagues and people you know from the non-profits you participate in. A top priority is achieving geographical diversity. Remember, the focus is on service and devotion to non-profits. We love the role played by those donors who make leadership gifts — but there is plenty of recognition and awards for them. We are looking for unsung heroes, who quietly in their own special ways improve the world. Here’s the nomination form. It just takes just a few minutes to complete. We will follow up with nominees and make the arrangements to interview them and highlight their stories.

Warning Signs

While large donors drove marginal growth in giving dollars throughout 2021 and much of 2022, their stability has begun to erode. According to Fundraising Effectiveness Project’s (FEP) latest quarterly data, a decrease in donors and dollars given was evident across all donor types in Q1 2023, with major donors causing an outsized decline in dollars and donor retention. Paired with a sharp drop in dollars given by new donors, these outcomes set the stage for compounded challenges for the sector throughout 2023. 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. 

Let The Good Times Roll

Perhaps this will juice you up after reading the previous story: Fueled by a resurgent stock market and rising home values, the Federal Reserve reports that U.S. household wealth hit a record $154.3 trillion during the second quarter of this year. Consumer wealth has now completely recovered from the recent inflation-driven drop in stock prices and real estate holdings. Household and non-profit net wealth increased by $5.5 trillion, or 4%, between the end of March and the end of June. This follows an increase of $3 trillion during the first three months of the year. The data isn’t adjusted for inflation. This bump in wealth was driven mostly by a surge in the value of Americans’ stock market investments, which grew by $2.6 trillion during the quarter. Real estate holdings, including the value of homes, increased by $2.5 trillion. Household wealth now stands about $2 trillion above the prior record of $152 trillion set in early 2022 — which should give consumers a cushion to weather future economic storms and a potential uptick in unemployment.

Fundraising Mojo

One of my favorite words is “mojo.” It conveys the extra power of sounding like its definition. Mojo is typically associated with an almost magic-like aura in which an individual has charisma, charm and confidence. But when mojo is exhibited with humility and respect for others it can and will provide significant power. This makes a compelling case that successful fundraisers possess and display mojo because they have earned it. There is no magic pill to take, rather it is a commitment to lifelong learning that is enriched by every solicitation of donor prospects — no matter what the outcome is. We are grateful to our friends at Bloomerang, for featuring our article, “10 Elements That Contribute To Fundraising Success,” or as I prefer to put it 10 Ways To Build and Demonstrate Your Fundraising Mojo.


Charity Navigator, the nation’s largest and most influential non-profit evaluator, has announced that its Fall Ratings Methodology Update will give donors a more holistic and nuanced view of non-profit effectiveness by making important changes to the way scores are calculated. With the inclusion of new data, Charity Navigator has now rated a total of 209,503 charities, the most in the organization’s history. Charity Navigator analyzes non-profit performance based on four key indicators: Accountability & Finance, Impact & Results, Culture & Community, and Leadership & Adaptability — referred to as beacons. In this latest update, 5,954 organizations have been scored on three or more beacons, a more than 50% increase. Based on a survey among Charity Navigator donors, 80% would rather donate to a four-star charity with all four beacons compared to one beacon. The Fall Methodology Update is the latest of Charity Navigator’s enhancements to its Encompass Rating System to make non-profit evaluations more comprehensive and impact focused. Earlier this year, the organization partnered with Impact Genome, the world’s leading social impact registry, to evaluate the quality and availability of non-profit impact data.

Hiring Crisis

The National Council of Non-Profits research details the continuing challenges non-profits face in hiring and retaining staff to serve their communities. Three-quarters (74.6%) of the 1,600-plus non-profits responding to a nationwide survey reported current job vacancies, based on a survey conducted earlier in the year by the networks of the National Council of Non-Profits. Half (51.7%) reported more vacancies in 2023 compared to 2020. More than a quarter (28%) reported a longer waiting list for services than before the pandemic began. The top reasons for vacancies: salary competition (72%), budget constraints and insufficient funds (66%) and stress and burnout (50%).


NORC at the University of Chicago reports that there has been a “substantial” increase in philanthropic spending for journalism over the past five years, particularly outlets that serve poor and minority communities — but journalists need to tighten ethical rules that govern the new spending it recommends. The struggling news industry is increasingly relying on donations and subscriptions, although it hasn’t come close to making up for the collapse in advertising that has led to the dramatic drop in outlets that cover local news. More than half of funders surveyed said they have increased their journalism grants. Most non-profit and for-profit news organizations report more funding. Partly because it’s a relatively new area of giving, it’s hard to get a reliable count of how much philanthropy funds journalism. A report by Boston Consulting Group estimated $150 million per year is given to non-profit news outlets. The same report said that industry needs up to $1.75 billion.

Bookshelf: From Bronx to Wall Street

Wall Street mogul Leon Cooperman in From The Bronx to Wall Street provides a brilliant business memoir encompassing a quarter-century with Goldman Sachs and then the management of his own successful hedge fund, Omega Advisors. Cooperman traces his life story from his roots as the son of immigrant parents in the Bronx through his days as an undergraduate at Hunter College, his subsequent graduate studies at the Columbia Business School, and beyond, all the way to his current role as a subscriber to Warren Buffet’s “Giving Pledge” and a committed philanthropist engaged in giving away the entirety of his multi-billion-dollar fortune. Along the way, Cooperman also spells out his philosophies and “best practices” for stock research and investment, rooted in the classic value-investing approach originated by Benjamin Graham and David Dodd. Additionally, Cooperman makes an impassioned defense of capitalism as the best of all possible economic systems. Cooperman’s narrative also includes meditations on taxes in general (and a wealth tax in particular) and challenges the thinking of political progressives who espouse policies which Cooperman believes would unduly restrain the free market.

Celebrity Corner

Seven-time WWE Smackdown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair (a royal name in the wrestling world) has launched a new fundraiser campaign. The Queen is known as one of the biggest “heels” in the business. Currently, she is playing a slightly different role as a babyface. The former Women’s Champion has stepped outside the squared circle to become a philanthropist. Earlier this year, Flair was away from in-ring action for a few months. During her time away, she became an ambassador for Smile Train. This organization works with kids who suffer from cleft palates. Since starting the foundation in 1999, the organization has been able to provide free cleft surgeries for people in over 87 countries. The Queen took to Twitter to ask her fans for to provide much-needed help to kids with clefts. The proceeds from her fundraising campaign will be directly helping the kids and their surgeries. She emphasizes that for just $21 donors can pay for one child’s medical expenses.

Quiz: Football Cities

For many people, football is far more than just a game: it’s a sacred American tradition. Football is by far Americans’ favorite sport to watch, with more popularity than basketball, baseball and soccer combined. In fact, 62% of Americans consider themselves either a fan or “somewhat” of a fan of professional football, and 54% say the same for college football. Certain cities provide a better football experience than others, though. WalletHub compared more than 240 U.S. cities with at least one college or professional football team across 21 key metrics. The data set ranges from the number of NFL and college football teams to stadium capacity to fan engagement. Match the following cities with their respective football enthusiasm score (100 is the best, 0 is the worst). Answers are shown at the bottom of the page.

1. Boston                    a. 27

2. Chicago                  b. 36

3. Kansas City            c. 43

4. Las Vegas               d. 52

5. Pittsburgh              e. 62

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

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