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Why all fundraising is sales

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“Selling is essentially a transfer of feelings”

– Zig Ziglar

If you work for a nonprofit or social enterprise…you’re in sales.

And the sooner you own it, the better your fundraising will be. The better your fundraising, the more donations and donors will come in. The higher your revenue, the more good you can do in the world.

Isn’t that what we all want?

I know what you might be thinking…sales is sleazy and icky while fundraising is a noble pursuit. How could the two compare?

That’s understandable.

Sales has gotten a bad rap because of the shortcuts marketers have taken over the years to exploit their customers.

Salespeople have made us feel uncomfortable (read: annoyed) by interrupting our lives with cold calls about services we don’t need and targeted ads about products we don’t want.

Too many have ignored our requests to leave us alone. Others abused our trust by selling us a false promise.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

A good salesperson serves their client rather than sell their customer.

As Jay Abraham points out, the difference between a client and a customer is massive. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary…

  • a customerpurchases a commodity or service.
  • a client is a person under the protection of another.

A good salesperson — a good fundraiser — takes the client under their protection. They look out for their best interest.

Instead of asking themselves “how can I extract more money from my customer?” they ask themselves “how can I best help my client to meet their need?”

Instead of thinking “what can I do to get the customer to buy?” they think “what do I have to give that will benefit my client?”

Good salespeople fall in love with their clients.

They become a trusted advisor and guide. Like a custom tailor, they aren’t interested in a one-size-fits-all approach.

They work hard to understand what their clients need, and then they work hard to find a solution to their problems.

Think about what your donors are buying.

Among other things:

  • a positive impact in the world.
  • a sense that they are part of a larger community.
  • a sense of belonging and purpose.
  • an affirmation of their values and worldview.
  • meaning in their own life story.
  • redemption.
  • a story to tell family and friends.
  • a transformation to become a better person.

Are any of those bad things?

Wouldn’t you want everyone to experience what it means to be a part of something larger than yourself?

Your job as fundraiser and nonprofit marketer is to guide people toward generosity because it is good for them.

Your job is to empower them to do something they couldn’t do on their own.

Your job is to take them under your protection and get to know who they are. What motivates them. What gives them hope. What frightens them. Where they find meaning and value. What kind of world they want to live in…and what kind of world they want their children to live in.

Don’t take that responsibility lightly.

Fundraising isn’t something you do to people, it’s something you do for people.

And if you work hard to show people you care — genuinely care — they might care back.

And that is good sales.

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