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Fundraisers Reveal Most Anxious Moments

May 3, 2011

Fundraisers say trying to get nonprofit board members involved in fundraising and making a call to a prospective new donor are two of the most challenging and anxious moments in their jobs, according to an informal online poll by the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP).

AFP's website homepage Quick Poll, conducted in the months of March and early April, gave visitors to its website six choices of what causes them the most apprehension in their job. Asked to select just one of the choices, the largest percentage said they get apprehensive about trying to find ways to involve board members into the crucial fundraising role (26 percent).

"Board members play an important role in fundraising because they are great spokespersons for the charity they serve and they can speak with authority on the impact of the organization," said Andrew Watt, FInstF, president and CEO of AFP. "However, many board members focus more on the fiscal management and operations aspects of their responsibilities, and it can be challenging for fundraisers to get them involved in raising money."

In addition, more fundraisers said they get anxious making a "cold call" to a prospective new donor than asking for money from a major donor. One in four fundraisers said they get most anxious about calling prospective donors, while making a major gift ask, often the culmination of several conversations and extensive cultivation with a donor, ranked lower (18 percent).

"I think that fundraisers get nervous about calling prospective donors because there is an element of the unknown, but I firmly believe that once you prepare for the different responses you might get, and treat the call as a true conversation, making a ‘cold call' can be as natural as speaking with people you do know," says AFP member Laura Fredricks, long-time fundraiser and author of The Ask. "While they can be nerve-wracking at first, these calls are a great way for fundraisers to spread the word about their organization, and in the process meet new people, get valuable feedback and expand their organization's base of support."

Roughly one in ten fundraisers said that they become most apprehensive writing a grant application. Writing fundraising copy and working with new technology, however, seem to be less worrisome, with few choosing these as the top concern.

"A lot of people think fundraising is simply about making phone calls and asking for money, but fundraising professionals do much more. They perform an important service to charitable organizations by acting as a bridge between a current or prospective donor and the worthy cause he or she cares dearly about," said Watt. "A fundraiser's job is to create and maintain relationships, to inform donors and to represent an organization. It's a big job, and it's both important and rewarding."

The poll results are listed below.

Question: Fundraising can be exhilarating, but also nerve-wracking at times. What part of your job makes you the most apprehensive? (838 total responses - conducted Feb. 28 to April 17, 2011)

Making the ask to a major donor - 18%
Making a call to a prospective donor - 25 %
Trying to get your board involved in fundraising - 26%
Writing fundraising copy - 6%
Writing a grant application - 12%
Working with new technology - 5%
Other - 8%

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The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) represents 30,000 members in 222 chapters throughout the world, working to advance philanthropy through advocacy, research, education and certification programs. The association fosters development and growth of fundraising professionals and promotes high ethical standards in the fundraising profession. For more information, go to www.afpnet.org.

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