Beth Breeze, director of the Centre for Philanthropy at the University of Kent, is to research the personal and social skills possessed by successful fundraisers.
The three-year project, called The Formation of Fundraisers: The Role of Personal Skills in Asking for Money, will explore how fundraisers’ personalities interact with their professional skills to affect the amount of money they raise for good causes.
Breeze said her project would break into an area that has not yet been researched. She has won funding from the Leverhulme Trust to support the study.
Breeze said that, although there was increasing information available about how to "do" good fundraising techniques, there was almost nothing on how to "be" a successful fundraiser, she said. The research will seek to find out what personal qualities and "soft skills" are needed to encourage the transfer of wealth to good causes.
"Despite the importance and urgency of fundraising, we know little about the non-technical aspects of the job of asking for money," said Breeze.
"This is genuinely innovative work, which makes it all the more exciting. I want to even the playing field – there is an awful lot of research into donor behaviour and motivations, but people rarely make unprompted solicitations."
She said it was not possible to understand the economics of charitable giving without looking at the role of fundraising. For example, she said, dire predictions of dips in voluntary income during recessions rarely came true thanks to the energy and drive of fundraisers.
Breeze will interview at least 30 successful fundraisers, volunteer fundraisers and major donors for the research. The project will also include a survey of at least 1,000 fundraisers who work with major donors, because this aspect of the job involves the most personal relationships. The Institute of Fundraising would put her in touch with fundraisers, Breeze said.
"I’m looking for the role that personality traits and characteristics play in successful fundraisers," she said. "Can we start to map out what they are and how they work, and what kind of people we want to recruit to fundraising?"
The Leverhulme Trust has provided £20,000 towards the research and is also paying half of Breeze’s salary, which is being matched by the University of Kent. She is planning to hold a conference during the third year of the project and the research will be turned into a book.