James Poetzscher: Teen Founder of Checkmate COVID

Using Chess to Fight the Coronavirus

The Covid-19 crisis has brought the world to its knees, but it has also brought out the best in some. People old and young from all walks of life are doing what they can to help those who are fighting the pandemic and those affected by it. Some are supporting frontline healthcare workers by collecting and donating PPE, some are involved with food drives to feed the hungry, and others are raising funds to support these initiatives and others like it. So many people are doing their part by using their unique talents and the resources available to them to help humanity get through the biggest health crisis the world has seen this century. One of the inspirational people using the tools at their disposal to make a difference is James Poetzscher, a high school student with a love for chess and a compassionate heart.

The Humble Beginnings of Checkmate COVID

As lockdowns were implemented in countries around the world, schools and companies temporarily shut their doors, leaving people confined at home with a lot of time to pursue projects. James Poetzscher and two of his friends, Jack Jacobsen and Felix Kaye, spent a lot of this free time playing chess. Poetzscher and the two other intrepid teens decided to use their passion for the game to raise funds for Covid-19 relief efforts. They held an online chess tournament with 32 participants and gave the winner $100 of their own money to donate to a Covid-19 charity. This modest beginning turned out to be a huge success and led to further tournaments, eventually bringing in sponsorships from organizations like San Francisco University High School, Cathedral School for Boys, Solid Gold, Sabbatical Ventures, and Branson.

James Poetzscher Greenhousmaps.com

James Poetzscher Greenhousmaps.com

A Growing Initiative

Players from all over are now taking part in the online chess tournaments organized by James Poetzscher and the Checkmate COVID team. Links to tournament results are published on the organization’s website, and the winner of each tournament gets to choose to which Covid-19 charity the prize money is donated.





Charities approved by Checkmate COVID include:

James Poetzscher – Social Activism in Other Fields

Fast becoming known as a formidable young philanthropist, James Poetzscher is not only focusing his attention on using chess to fight the pandemic. He is also the force behind Greenhouse Maps, a website he created to track atmospheric gases using satellites. Having developed an interest in greenhouse emissions and satellite tracking at a young age, Poetzscher realized that there was very little information about this available online. After extensively researching the issue, he constructed a website that would provide quality tracking data. Since then, Poetzscher has been mapping global air pollution with the European Environmental Bureau and has published several papers on the topic.





Individual Donors Are the Largest Source of Charitable Giving

As global economies become more unstable around the world, the job of fundraising becomes more challenging for non-profit organizations. It helps to have well-researched studies to guide nonprofit leaders as they develop their fundraising strategies.

A new study released in 2018 by the U.S. Trust of Bank of America and Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy does just that. Surveying 1,646 American households with a net worth greater than $1 million or annual income in excess of $200,000, the study results provide an invaluable tool for non-profit leaders as they improve and concentrate their fundraising efforts.
Among the findings of the Bank of America/Indiana University study is that individuals continue to play the main role in philanthropic giving. In fact, according to data compiled by the National Philanthropic Trust, $268.65 billion in donations came from private individuals in 2017. This amount represents 70% of total 2017 philanthropic giving.

The Bank of America/Indiana University study reveals very important findings that can guide fundraisers over the coming year. Here are just a few.

Individuals are Focused on Mission and Accountability

Mission is clearly the guiding factor in determining where to invest donations. Donors need to feel that the nonprofit aligns with their own interests and world outlook. In fact, more than half of the respondents replied that they donated because of the nonprofit’s mission. At the same time, though, 91% of respondents stated that accountability is very important to them. They want to see outcomes, operating budgets, and the organization’s business practices. Donors want to know that their contributions are going to programs and not administration.

Donors Are Giving More

The study found that individuals are still committed to charitable giving. On average, donors give more than $29,000 per year to nonprofit organizations. Individual donors have a wide variety of interests, but nonprofits focused on basic services are clearly favored recipients. Nonprofits involved in healthcare or religious issues were the next two most popular.

Individuals are Giving More than Money

Individual donors are investing more than their money in nonprofits. They are also donating their time, forming long-lasting partnerships with the organizations they support. The study found that 48% of survey participants donated time to their supported organizations.

What are the Lessons Going Forward?

Probably the most glaring lesson is that accountability matters. High-net-worth individuals are still donating significant sums to charities, but they want to know how their donations are being spent. Charitable organizations need to be sure to provide donors with accurate and easily digestible annual reports.

The fact that donors are becoming more involved by volunteering with the nonprofits they are supporting helps a great deal with this, as nonprofit leaders can easily show donors how and where their contributions are being spent. Organizing opportunities for donors to visit programs or speak with constituents can also give them what they need to stay involved and even increase their annual donation.

Corporations Join the Philanthropists of the World

Philanthropy is no longer the sole responsibility of individuals. Increasingly, corporations are embedding into their strategic plans, corporate responsibility objectives. These objectives include financial gifts, in-kind contributions, and employee volunteer hours.

2017 Was a Banner Year for Corporate Philanthropy

The Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy (CECP) was founded in 1999 by Paul Newman. Its membership includes 200 of the largest corporations in the world. According to their 2017 statistics, 60% of their members increased their giving in 2017. The median amount given also increased by 15% during the years 2015-2017. The final tally of corporate giving in 2017 among CECP members was $23.8 billion. The healthcare sector led the way, increasing their giving by 62%. It is expected that 2018 total will be even better, as most corporations reported that they intended to increase their philanthropic donations this year.

Fewer Grants and More Accountability

The total overall grants funded in 2017 fell by 22%, but the amount of funding to this smaller pool of grants increased by 19%. Corporations are looking for more accountability from grantees and measurable outcomes. Education continues to top the list of corporate giving, with a focus on improving k-12 educational outcomes. In second place was corporate giving to ongoing-emergencies, such as disaster assistance. Between the years 2015-2017, corporate giving to natural disasters increased by 306%. This is a testament to the number of devastating natural disasters that occurred in the United States during these years.

In-Kind Giving Increases

The value of in-kind donations is catching fire among corporations too. These non-cash contributions provide a level of sustainability for grantees, allowing them to expand their services to constituent groups. In 2017, 66% of reporting corporations made in-kind donations to philanthropic agencies. Healthcare, communications and consumer staples companies topped the list of corporations increasing their in-kind donations.

Employee Engagement

Increasingly, corporations are engaging their employees in actualizing their corporate responsibility objectives. Doing so increases the visibility of the corporation, helping non-profits and improving name recognition among consumers. Of companies surveyed, 93% reported that they had active employee volunteer programs in 2017. Companies also encourage their employees to be change agents themselves, allowing time off for volunteer activities and honoring individual donations through corporate matching programs.

Corporate Philanthropy Still Has Room to Grow

Even though the 2017 donation totals are encouraging, there is still much more progress to be made. The total number of corporations participating is still small, only 5% in 2017. The primary source of philanthropic donations continues to be individuals.

As corporations continue to become more global, coupled with the impact of social media on their reputations, we can expect to see an upward shift in corporate giving.