I was cleaning out a cabinet last weekend and I came across an old book I read long ago titled Strategic Selling. Some pages were dog-eared so I flipped the pages and found this gem:
“The smart salesperson never thinks of selling as a battle or of customers as enemies to be beaten. It’s possible to get an order by tricking or pressuring your customers into signing, but when you do that you are making them LOSE, that is allowing yourself to WIN at their expense. This is an extremely shortsighted strategy. A customer whom you’ve beaten in this way will get out, get even, or do both. In the short run, you may not care. But in terms of the long-range management of that customer’s account, you’ll be kidding yourself even more than you’ve kidded the customer: An order you get by “beating the buyer” nearly always turns out to be business that you wish you hadn’t sold.”
Also, go ahead and replace salesperson with fundraiser and selling with fundraising. When I did that, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Too often nonprofits begin the relationship with a supporter the wrong way. They try to trick them into giving with fake deadlines creating urgency, gimmicks like pennies in envelopes, or a myriad other ploys.
Smart fundraisers know that the point of acquisition fundraising is to get people into the funnel so they can take a donor journey that leads to a major gift (including a legacy gift). If you think about the first donation as the first date, doesn’t it make sense to be open, honest, and fair from the get-go even if it means less money now (but much more later)?
But they aren’t! Strategic Selling was written in 1988. The sales profession (and it IS a profession) has been working on improving the level of fairness involved in transactions for decades. I think it’s time for those fundraisers focused on acquisition to get caught up with modern ways of being fair to their donors (regardless of what “works” in the short-term). Doing so will make it easier for major gift and planned gift officers to do their jobs so they can raise more money at lower costs.
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