“Sales and Major Gift Fundraising are NOTHING alike!”

I say BS.

I’ve encountered several people who believe this, and I don’t understand why they teach it to new development professionals.

Ultimately, I think it comes down to a lack of understanding of what sales TRULY is.

Of course, Major Gift fundraising should not at all be modeled after slimy sales techniques, but sales done well is incredibly rewarding and honorable work.

Some of the similarities between high performers in major gifts and sales:

  1. They keep a full pipeline and know how to schedule visits or meetings effectively.
  2. They find out and understand what their prospect’s problem is long before they tell them about their solution.
  3. If they find out that their solution will effectively solve their problem, they directly ask for an order so that the prospect can take action and start seeing the results they desire.
  4. They know that the fortune is in the follow-up and act accordingly.
  5. When they have a satisfied customer, they ask for referrals.

Of course, there are some differences in sales and fundraising, but “nothing alike?”

Do you agree or disagree?

What’s something you’ve learned from sales leaders?


Post written by our good friend Kevin Fitzpatrick owner of One Visit Away, a consulting business helping leaders of nonprofits schedule more and better visits with their benefactors.  Kevin’s goal is to help fundraising professionals constantly seek to deepen their relationships with their benefactors.  After all, you’re just One Visit Away from growing your mission and your impact.  


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2 years ago

Another similarity is that a good sales person and a good MGO will hear “no” as an opportunity to address an objection or provide more information or as a “not yet” and be patient and respectful — asking “when?” or “under what circumstances?”

2 years ago

Here are a few dis-similarities (from “bad” sales or fundraising practices and “good” ones):

Good fundraising (or sales):
* is NOT arm-twisting!
* is not wearing someone down until they say “yes” to make you stop asking.
* is not manipulating them with various techniques to get them to say yes.
* is not asking because you (the sales person or MGO) have a deadline or a quota to make
* is not disrespectful
* is not about you (the fundraiser or sales person)

2 years ago

Sales and fundraising are about relationships and finding win-win solutions to a major concern of donor/client- and remembering to say thank you afterwards. Seems to be more similarities than differences!

Last edited 2 years ago by Nancy
Greg Warner
2 years ago
Reply to  Nancy

Thanks so much for this comment Nancy. We will share it with Kevin Fitzpatrick (the author of today’s blog post).

2 years ago

Sales can be very ego centric. When developing gifts for a charity, one must put the self behind and come from a place in the heart that enables the fundraiser to engender empathy in the prospective donor to support the cause. It take humility to be a fundraiser.

Greg Warner
2 years ago
Reply to  Terri

Thanks so much for this comment Terri. We will share it with Kevin Fitzpatrick (the author of today’s blog post).

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