A few years ago, I had the opportunity to move from a career in sales, to become a professional fundraiser. It amazed me how easily and aptly all of my training and techniques in sales applied to fundraising for major donations. As I attended meetings and met with my new colleagues, I would often share this revelation. Immediately, I would get odd facial expressions like I had a third eye, or an emphatic “oh, we are not salespeople!”
It was so obvious to me. Not only were they salespeople, they were some of the best I had ever seen. Primarily, this was due to one key characteristic. It cannot be trained, taught, or polished. Salespeople go from organization to organization searching for it. What is “IT”? It is “BELIEF”. The invaluable asset of truly believing in and having a passion for what you represent. Automobile enthusiasts become car salesman because of their passion for cars. Some sales people attach the completion of each sale to a larger personal goal of a home, new car, or dream vacation, thus making it about their belief in themselves, their skills and abilities. Fundraisers are clear about their belief in their organizations and the passion for the individuals and communities they serve.
The great fundraisers, as you observe them, follow a process, use sales aids, and leverage testimonials just like people in sales. Amazing fundraisers engage their donors, ask questions, and want to understand what motivates their donors to give. After some investigation, the fundraiser connects the impact of the donor’s dollars to their desire to give. Then to add value, they share sales aids in the forms of stories about individuals, families, or communities that have been affected by the generosity of donors like them.
Fundraisers have the passion and belief to make great things happen for their organizations. Using a few sales techniques could get them an extra digit or two to the left of the decimal. Embrace that Fundraising is “Sales with a Purpose” and see what you can do.
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