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Survey Results: How Boards Feel About Fundraising

faces expression

As someone with key fundraising responsibilities, it is essential to know exactly where your resources – as well as deficits – lie within your organization. A constant, regardless of the mission of your NPO, is that leadership from an organization’s board of directors is a key ingredient towards advancement success. Thus, it is critical to understand how your board feels about participating in fundraising overall. On a more granular level, it is also important to understand what each director is comfortable doing within the spectrum of engagement activities that constitute fundraising.

A few months ago, on this blog, Copley Raff introduced a somewhat universal concept called “The Who’s Asking Paradox.” As part of this conversation, we launched a survey asking advancement officers to document how their boards feel about helping with fundraising. This was captured by participants selecting one of six facial expressions demonstrating an emotion, ranging from “terrified” to “eager.” We specifically focused on feelings rather than an intellectual exercise because it has been shown time and time again that it is our emotional position that drives us; that incents us to do things outside of our comfort zone. Which, for many people, includes fundraising.
Responses were collected from an online survey contained in this GivingTake blog and in person at the Association of Healthcare Philanthropy international conference held in Boston in November, 2011. Here are the results:
Terrified: 27%
Disgusted: 2%
Stubborn: 5%
Ambivalent: 41%
Happy: 21%
Eager: 4%
n = 117
So what do these findings suggest? Both good news and less than good news. While 25% of the boards represented have a positive attitude toward participating in fundraising by indicating “happy” or “eager” (something in the water perhaps?), the other 75% are either ambivalent or have negative feelings about it, as indicated by a “terrified,” “disgusted,” “stubborn,” or “ambivalent” response.

Do you know how your board feels about helping you with advancement? And yes, it really does matter. And here’s why.

Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to helping others champion things that are outside of their comfort zone. Here’s the opportunity. If you are able to take the “temperature” of your board using these emotional measures, you can design a board presentation/training to directly target the majority and minority feelings embodied by your board. Addressing someone’s terror is a very different strategy than moving someone who is “ambivalent” into the “happy” column.

Let’s get started. This exercise is fast and easy, and most board members will be happy to participate. Hold a quick session and ask your volunteers to rank their feelings from 1 to 6 (corresponding to the emotions listed above) about how they feel concerning…
  • Asking a friend for a contribution; #___
  • Asking a relative stranger for a contribution; #___
  • Asking a perfect stranger for a contribution; #___
  • Dining with a friend; #___
  • Dining with a potentially new friend; #___
  • You (director) being asked for a contribution; #___
As part of the exercise, provide your board members with a sheet of paper with this rating system on it, and ask them to fill in their numbers and sign their name. This will give you an overall understanding of your board’s emotional position as well as how each individual feels about participating in key advancement functions. As a result, you can begin planning your board fundraising optimization strategy on both the overall and individual level.
Your takes:
  1. It is your responsibility to understand the emotional positions of your board and each director before formulating expectations about their advancement performance or potential.
  2. Design your board engagement strategy and trainings based on realities of their emotional profiles.
  3. Measure the board’s emotional position in a year’s time and see if you have moved the individual and aggregate needle closer to happy or eager fundraisers.

For more information about Copley Raff and its spectrum of not for profit consulting services, please see

Have a development, executive recruitment, or campaign strategy or management challenge? Let’s talk! Click here to connect with Rebekah Kaufman, Director of Consulting Services at CRI.