The Leaky Bucket: Fundraising in China

• effective fundraising • Leaky Bucket • fund development plan
Ellen Bristol

We knew our Leaky Bucket Assessment for Effective Fundraising was popular.  After all, we've gotten hundreds of surveys back so far, and about 20% of you have taken advantage of our ongoing offer of a free, private, confidential review of your findings.  What we didn't expect was the surveys that have come in from far-flung corners of the world.  So far we've covered Canada (not so far-flung), the UK (only moderately far-flung) and the Galapagos Islands (definitely far-flung!).  Recently, to our delight, we've gotten a couple of Leaky Buckets from Beijing.  Yay for the Leaky Bucket!The Leaky Bucket

But here's what really matters.  The results that our two Chinese agencies got were right in line with the results most of you have gotten so far.  And this is in spite of the fact that the rules are really different in China than they are here!!!!  In China, for example, not-for-profit organizations are not allowed to do any marketing or promotions to obtain donations, whereas here in North America, not only can we do such marketing, but we have to.  Or income really suffers.

So far, we've only spoken to one of our Chinese Leaky-Bucketers, and it was a really wonderful experience, so thank you so much to Lei Wong, executive director of The Jane Goodall Institute of China.  It was a pleasure to speak with such a sophisticated and committed nonprofit executive.  The Jane Goodall Institute is probably best known in the West for its support of chimpanzees and chimpanzee habitat in Africa, but in China and other continents that lack great apes, the Institute  encourages young people to learn and become involved in active efforts to preserve endanged habitats and endangered species. 

Lei scored her agency at 19 points, giving her the level of "Call the Productivity Helpline!"  Lei can accept individual donations but she can't promote them.  She can accept donations from for-profit enterprises - but she can't promote them either.  She can promote her agency's activities, which helps her to raise awareness, bring on followers, and generally get the word out indirectly.  And, like so many others, Lei has no fundraising staff; she does all the program, outreach, and fundraising work.  No wonder it's so tough for her to get where she wants to go!!!!

And she's not alone.  Lei's level, Call the Productivity Helpline, represents a whopping 59% of all surveys to date.  Only three percent - 3% - of our participants came in at the highest level, Watertight.  Twenty-one percent came in at the lowest level, Leaking Like a Sieve. And the rest of the sample to date came in one level below Watertight, or Time for Preventive Productivity Maintenance.

So what does this mean for you and the effectiveness of your fundraising efforts?  Well, statistics don't help us here, because the number of Chinese agencies so far is a grand total of two.  But it's interesting nonetheless.  Remember, more than half of you who have taken the Leaky Bucket said your agencies ranked just one level above Leaking Like a Sieve.   Yet here in the US, Canada and even the UK, you are not constrained in terms of marketing and promotion.  There's a long tradition of philanthropy in our countires, where it's far 'younger' in China.  The size of the nonprofit sector is enormous in our countries as well, whereas nonprofits and NGO's represent a smaller piece of the economic pie in China. 

So if that's the case, then US, Canadian and British nonprofits have significant room for improvement. 

You can help us improve the statistical validity of the Leaky Bucket by completing it for yourself.  Remember, it takes five minutes, it's free, and you'll get a private, confidential review of your results just by asking for it.  If you've already taken it, why not encourage another member of staff or a board member to take it as well?  Multiple perspectives on the same agency can be fascinating.  Just click here to start your assessment.

If you would like to know more about the Jane Goodall Institute in China, or about their Roots & Shoots program, please visit or send email to Lei Wong at


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