The Fundraiser’s Art of Reading Body Language

Knowledge of best practices is paramount to success in fundraising, but surely isn’t there more to what makes a great Major Gifts Officer?

At recent seminar about body language, delivered by LifeLabs, I learned valuable tools of how to accurately “read” body language and facial expressions of donor prospects. My skills in the all-important area of face-to-face solicitations have been greatly enhanced outside those typically employed by fundraisers because of it.

Here’s one tip that I learned that you might employ in your next meeting with a major donor.  Take note of the position of the prospective donor’s shoulders.  If his or her shoulders are squared and leaning slightly forward, that often means that the prospect is engaged in the conversation (which is good).  Tilted shoulders, where the prospect is leaning backwards, often means that he or she is not comfortable and thus trying to avoid the conversation (which is not good!) Based on your reading of his or her body language, you can adjust your own style to make him or her feel more comfortable or to go deeper if you sense their comfort level is well established.


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