The Triple “A” Board

The Triple “A” Board


22 March 2022


By David Allen, Development for Conservation


Somebody out there is going to laugh at this, but I just heard about Kaye Sprinkel Grace’s “AAA” Board a few weeks ago.


And fell in love with it.


Every Board I’ve ever met has been populated by a majority of people who find fundraising distasteful or terrifying or both. And I’ve made the case over and over that 1) all Board members need to help with fundraising and 2) not all fundraising is asking. (“90% of all fundraising is not about asking!”)

I found the “menu” metaphor and used that for a while:

  • Appetizer – Introduction
  • Soup/Salad – Cultivation
  • Entrée – Solicitation
  • Dessert – Thank you process


I’ve made the case that our Boards need to represent the communities we serve. And they also need to represent the organizations they serve back into their communities. It’s a two-way street. Land trusts need Ambassadors who can help more people see conservation as important to them and see the land trust as a tool they can “own” and use.


I’ve liked my friend and colleague Dianne Alves’ image of seeing a group of people gathered on one side of the room – our first job as fundraisers being to attract their attention. To get a few of them to turn in our direction. Then annual cultivation and solicitation activities encourage them to take steps in our direction – to become closer and more engaged – to become more invested and to become a part of what we are doing. To increasingly make what WE are doing what THEY are doing also.


But until a few weeks ago, I had never heard of the Triple “A” Board. I believe the book, which she wrote in 2009(!), is out of print now, but I found and purchased a used copy – an easy read. The actual title is The AAA Way to Fundraising Success, by Kaye Sprinkel Grace.

You probably don’t need to read it to “get” it, but I would still recommend it if you can find a copy. It’s a framework for talking to Board members about their role in fundraising. And it doesn’t let anyone off the hook for getting involved at some level.


The three “A”s are as follows:

The Ambassador makes friends and opens doors. S/he greets people at events and helps get to know them on field trips and outings. S/he asks questions and remembers answers. Ambassadors answer questions as well and follow-up when they don’t know something. Ambassadors are organizational “hosts.” All Board members can be Ambassadors.

The Advocate helps make the case for being engaged. S/he might be a speaker at an event, or a topical expert. Some advocates are educators. Others are story-tellers. Advocates are engaged in the work and their engagement serves to lend credibility to the effort.

The Asker is the closer. The person who shows people THAT they can help and HOW they can help. S/he calls the question.


Nonprofits need all three “A”s on their Boards. Some Board members may be able to act in all three roles. Others may be more comfortable in just one or two. But everyone needs to find a place in fundraising, and every organization needs a culture that helps Board members find their place.

Sprinkel Grace suggests getting started by understanding the roles current Board members may be willing to play already. Describe each role specific to your organization and use a survey to ask all current Board members to self-identify into the role or roles they might be most suited for. Then offer training to bolster existing skills and recruit new Board members with filling the gaps in mind. Create a culture that regularly and systematically asks Board members to engage in one of these three ways. And then connect what they are doing to the overall fundraising success they are helping make possible.


As a framework, I really love this, and I will be using it to talk about Board member involvement in fundraising into the future. If it resonates with you as well, I would love to hear about your experience.


Cheers, and Have a great week!




PS: Your comments on these posts are welcomed and warmly requested. If you have not posted a comment before, or if you are using a new email address, please know that there may be a delay in seeing your posted comment. That’s my SPAM defense at work. I approve all comments as soon as I am able during the day.


Photo by Markus Spiske courtesy of


Share this!
  • Kathryn Grohusky
    Posted at 18:06h, 23 March
  • Carol Abrahamzon
    Posted at 08:19h, 22 March

    Seems like having our Development committee survey the board is a good place to start.

  • Kate Patton
    Posted at 08:15h, 22 March

    This is a great way to talk about fundraising with the board.

  • Maria Trabka
    Posted at 07:46h, 22 March

    I suggest that the Ambassador’s role extends beyond asking questions and remembering answers to “relaying their observations and intel back to the fundraising staff and database managers for capture and future use.”

  • Jill Boullion
    Posted at 07:42h, 22 March

    Love it! Simple, easy to remember, and effective.

  • Rich
    Posted at 06:53h, 22 March

    Great insight! Thank you.