Fundraising: Yep, it’s sales

I have heard it said that fund development and fund-raising is not sales. To this I say, poppycock. Donor engagement is a relational sales process which ends in a transaction: a donation.

A donation takes many forms and shapes and sizes, but in the end it boils down to the same thing, someone asking for money. Branding helps a donor find an organization, but eventually it is the conversation between the donor and the organization that will determine the amount and repetitiveness of the donation. The donor must have access to the brand then evaluate the brand based on their personal preferences, be invited to interact with the brand and eventually make a personal connection to the brand that cements the bond between donor and charity. In this way, the donor sees the success of the organization as their personal responsibility.

The movement of the donor through this process is a relational sales process. The ultimate transaction comes at the end when a donation is made, but whether the donation is for $1 or $1,000,000 the process is still the same. There must be value in the form of a feature/benefit proposition. Example: If you want to help reduce the number of unwanted kittens in your local animal shelter, a donation to XYZ Humane Society will benefit our spay/neuter campaign. To provide a donor with a feature / benefit analysis is a sales process. The relationship between donor and charity is that when the value is presented in such as way that the donor feels their contribution is valued and valuable, there will be a donation.

The essence of sales is to establish this feature / benefit relationship with the donor. The fund-raising professional must establish the value of the organization, understand who the donor is and craft an ask framed in the appropriate amount, requested at the correct time. For example, if you ask Bill Gates for a $10 donation while attending his favorite charity event, your chances of obtaining a $10 are pretty fair….I would imagine. However if you ask for $10,000,000 at the cocktail bar, you might expect some resistance. He might still donate the amount requested, but he will need to understand the feature / benefit relationship.

So the next time you are cruising the local bake sale, don’t just drop in a $5, grab your brownie and go….ask for a sales pitch. You will find that even those scouts have a pitch…happy selling!