Jim Eskin, a San Antonio-based fundraising trainer and consultant, announced the publication of his book, 10 Simple Fundraising Lessons, a common-sense guide to overcoming the fear of asking for gifts.
The lessons in Eskin’s book are based on his career as a higher education fundraising professional and his experience training non-profit board members, staff and volunteers. Since founding Eskin Fundraising Training, LLC, last year, he has led some 50 workshops and training sessions attended by hundreds of individuals who raise money for organizations that depend on donations to champion their charitable work in the community.
“If there’s one thing shared by many business and community leaders who are responsible for raising money, it’s this,” Eskin says. “Many of them are fearless about everything else they face in their lives, but often terrified of asking for a gift for their favorite non-profit.”
In his customized training sessions and interactive workshops, Eskin uses role-playing to teach participants the fundamentals of making an effective solicitation for their organization’s needs and invites guest speakers and industry experts to share their wisdom. He refers to his training sessions as “learning communities” and his vision is for the book to consolidate highlights of his presentations and expand the learning community to non-profit professionals and volunteers across the country.
Eskin calls 10 Simple Fundraising Lessons a simple, quick-reference guide full of common sense-based advice that is easy for anyone to follow. The lessons offer guidance on how to identify and nurture relationships with donors, use stories to effectively demonstrate your organization’s needs, and create ways to thank donors that will lead to long-term relationships. They also help fundraisers determine how — and how much — to ask for while keeping the “fun” in fundraising.
Here’s an excerpt from 10 simple fundraising lessons by Jim Eskin
Like many professional fundraisers, as a kid, during college, or even during the early part of my career, I never thought about making a living this way. I didn’t know anyone in the profession, and I didn’t know what those who made their living as fundraisers did.
Red McCombs, a Texas-size giant of a business and philanthropic leader in San Antonio, was the first to put the idea of being a professional fundraiser in my head. And I’ll forever be grateful to him for doing so.
In 1996, when I had been in the trade association and corporate PR business for 20 years, the organization that recruited me to San Antonio from Washington, D.C., decided to leave town. I had to decide whether I wanted to leave with it or stay in the city that had become my adopted home for 14 years. What would come next in my career?
Not long after I moved to San Antonio in 1982, I had become involved in a campaign that culminated in the referendum to build the 65,000-seat Alamodome. This allowed me to discover and develop advocacy, organizational and leadership muscles. It was enormously satisfying to devise a public awareness strategy, motivate volunteers, work with the media, and speak up for an issue I believed in. It was a labor of love, and soon I found myself much more excited about the work I wasn’t paid to do than the work I was. I thought, what if I could combine my desire for being engaged in the community with my day job?
Mr. McCombs pointed out that my advocacy skills would be transferable to – and highly effective in – the growing development field. To show how clueless I was back then, I didn’t even know that “development” was another word for fundraising. And while I had solid public relations credentials, I had no fundraising experience.
Enter another mentor – the late Sam Riklin. Sam was an advertising dynamo who was driven to supplement his income in the stock market when he lost major accounts. He did well in the stock market and became increasingly active in philanthropy, especially as a champion of higher education.
Sam and I had served as presidents of the two local B’nai B’rith (a Jewish service organization) chapters at the same time. He took an interest in me, and we bonded through our mutual interests. When my employer left town, and I was out of work, Sam invited me to share his office while I looked for a new job.
The next nine months under Sam’s mentorship were a time of profound growth for me. Sam helped introduce me to and deepen my relationship with people in the non-profit sector. Fortunately, I also had friends who had successfully transitioned from communications backgrounds to fundraising. The late Robert Sosa, who helped raise $80 million during his 22-year career at the University of the Incarnate Word as Director of Foundation, Corporate and Government Foundations, reassured me that if he was able to make a smooth transition and that I could too. And after several months of searching, I landed a position as a Development Officer with The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) College of Business.
I was now in fundraising, but I still needed to learn it from square one. Fortunately, I received a lot of help from my new boss, Jim Gaertner, Dean of the College of Business. He was a natural fundraiser, and I was able to be front and center for many of the joyful asks he made.
Jim took the lead when we asked for money – with one exception. That was when it came time to request $1 million from his long-time friend Richard Liu, one of the world’s leading leather manufacturers based in Hong Kong. On December 4, 1998, at 11 a.m., Jim allowed me to ask Mr. Liu for $1 million for scholarships and faculty exchanges based on a proposal I drafted. Richard said yes. It was UTSA’s first $1 million gift from an individual. How about that? The first $1 million gift to UTSA came from someone who lived 8,261 miles away! He subsequently donated several more million to UTSA, too. From that moment, I was hooked. I would be a fundraiser for life.
As my career progressed, I learned that the success of a professional fundraiser is measured by how much we can leverage the relationships of board members and volunteers who are committed to our cause.
I also came face-to-face with the fear of fundraising and discovered that many people think they just can’t do it. They have always believed – often based on nothing more than their own reluctance to ask – that they can’t convince someone to donate to a cause they believe in.
The late Jerold Panas, the best-selling fundraising author of all time, has inspired so many of us in the profession. He studied the personal qualities that enable fundraisers to be great and concludes that they’re varied as people themselves.
But he identified 29 attributes and at the top list are a gift for selling the dream and outsized optimism.
I have learned from many people in our profession. Some are well-known and speak at our professional conferences, but most aren’t. They all have something valuable to teach us. But the best learning comes from making an ask. You learn when the answer is yes and when the answer is no.
It is very gratifying to train board members and volunteers about fundraising and help empower them with the knowledge and confidence that they can do it. Most of my experience is with organizations in the relatively early stages of growing their resource development programs. But I’m confident that my approach is relevant to all kinds of organizations that aren’t content with their current results and want to raise more money.
Each lesson in the book ends with practical steps that readers can use right away to advance their organization’s fundraising programs. Congratulations Jim Eskin on a job well done!
Jim Eskin and his 10 Simple Fundraising Lessons can be purchased for $16.95 and is available by scrolling to the bottom of the Contact Page of his website http://eskinfundraisingtraining.com contact
It can also be found on Amazon.
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