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"You're in Sales! Get Over It!" or The Difference Between Fundraising and Selling

Greg Warner is CEO and Founder of MarketSmart, a revolutionary marketing software and services firm that helps nonprofits raise more for less. In 2012 Greg coined the phrase “Engagement Fundraising” to encapsulate his breakthrough fundraising formula for achieving extraordinary results. Using their own innovative strategies and technologies, MarketSmart helps fundraisers around the world zero in on the donors most ready to support their organizations and institutions with major and legacy gifts.

A while back, I wrote a blog post about the difference between buying and giving.
I said, “There is no difference between buying and giving.  So, in order to inspire a monetary exchange (for profit or nonprofit), you must provide value to others.”
A few brave folks responded to my post. One said, “I caution us to take a close look at this, there is a distinct difference between consumer driven transactions and philanthropy.” Another said, “There is a difference and it is a huge one.” And, yet another, said, “There is a huge difference.”
I disagreed with all of them.  You can see their comments here.
Recently I began to think, if there is no difference between buying and giving, then there must not be a difference between fundraising and selling. I wondered if anyone else had anything to say about the subject. So I Googled it and found a wonderful quote that settled the argument succinctly. I figured I’d share it here with you today. It’s from Tom Suddes and it’s brilliant!
“You’re in sales! Get over it!
Thanks Tom.
 

16 responses to “"You're in Sales! Get Over It!" or The Difference Between Fundraising and Selling”

  1. Daniel Meloy says:

    This blog, as well as the previous one and the comments to it, are from the marketer/fundraiser perspective. How about asking the consumer/giver? Aren’t donors the ultimate authority on this? (Admittedly, those of us in marketing/sales/development are also donors, but we have a built-in bias from our professions.)

  2. Daniel Meloy says:

    This blog, as well as the previous one and the comments to it, are from the marketer/fundraiser perspective. How about asking the consumer/giver? Aren’t donors the ultimate authority on this? (Admittedly, those of us in marketing/sales/development are also donors, but we have a built-in bias from our professions.)

  3. Greg Warner says:

    By the way, at MarketSmart, we don’t call anyone a sales person. Instead we call our folks Solutionists (a term I made up just as I made up Engagement Fundraising).
    I don’t like the term “fundraiser” or “sales person”.

  4. Greg Warner says:

    By the way, at MarketSmart, we don’t call anyone a sales person. Instead we call our folks Solutionists (a term I made up just as I made up Engagement Fundraising).
    I don’t like the term “fundraiser” or “sales person”.

  5. Greg Warner says:

    Oh, and Daniel… you make a very good point. To be truly donor-centric, we should consider what they think and believe.

  6. Greg Warner says:

    Oh, and Daniel… you make a very good point. To be truly donor-centric, we should consider what they think and believe.

  7. Scott Park says:

    Greg– thank you for raising this issue. Having had an extensive successful career in sales prior to making the change to development, I frequently have shared with those who have asked how I made the “transition” from sales to fundraising, that “I use the same muscles” and I share the many similarities between the two.
    I have also identified one difference.
    In sales, rightly or wrongly, there is often a perception that the transaction is a “zero sum” affair; either the buyer or the seller got the better of the deal.
    Not so in development. In fundraising, it is a “Win, Win, Win” proposition. The organization or cause wins, because they receive the support from the donor to advance their mission. The donor wins because they have an opportunity to continue or expand the mission of an organization or cause they care about. And finally, the fundraiser wins, because they get to experience the joy of “closing”.
    Save for this one difference, the skill set to be successful in sales: commitment, activity, planning, execution and skills will serve you equally well in fundraising.

  8. Scott Park says:

    Greg– thank you for raising this issue. Having had an extensive successful career in sales prior to making the change to development, I frequently have shared with those who have asked how I made the “transition” from sales to fundraising, that “I use the same muscles” and I share the many similarities between the two.
    I have also identified one difference.
    In sales, rightly or wrongly, there is often a perception that the transaction is a “zero sum” affair; either the buyer or the seller got the better of the deal.
    Not so in development. In fundraising, it is a “Win, Win, Win” proposition. The organization or cause wins, because they receive the support from the donor to advance their mission. The donor wins because they have an opportunity to continue or expand the mission of an organization or cause they care about. And finally, the fundraiser wins, because they get to experience the joy of “closing”.
    Save for this one difference, the skill set to be successful in sales: commitment, activity, planning, execution and skills will serve you equally well in fundraising.

  9. darn, Greg, you beat me to MY comment…that sales also need to be win-win if you want to keep on “selling” to that customer…he/she needs to believe they GOT value from their purchase..and our donors need to get value from their gifts… human nature doesn’t change. Yes, true, some salesmen are real crooks…so are some of the fundraisers I’ve met! Thanks again for your perspective.

  10. darn, Greg, you beat me to MY comment…that sales also need to be win-win if you want to keep on “selling” to that customer…he/she needs to believe they GOT value from their purchase..and our donors need to get value from their gifts… human nature doesn’t change. Yes, true, some salesmen are real crooks…so are some of the fundraisers I’ve met! Thanks again for your perspective.

  11. Deborah Jewell says:

    Greg: I have been in fund development a long time and the basic principles and fundamentals have not changed and are still effective in raising funds for organizations that help change lives. The information age we live in has given us some additional tools but building relationships based on trust is still at the foundation of what we do. Sales has evolved to be more relationship-based like fundraising, not the other way around. Those of us of the Baby Boomer generation still have a negative association with the term salesperson as it conjures up the image of the slick and sleazy used car salesman. I don’t disagree that sales today is far different than it was when I was growing up. Today there are many parallels between the disciplines of fund development and sales as it is now defined. But we were here first, building relationships and moving people to invest in worthy causes. Sales has just caught up.

    • Greg Warner says:

      Very well said Deborah. I like your thought process.
      Only thing is… my dad was in sales. He sold insurance starting in 1962. And my grandfather was in sales too. He sold clothing door to door out of a trunk starting right after the Great Depression. I heard that my great grandfather was a carpenter so I’m figuring he had to sell a little bit too. My ancestors (mostly my dad and grandfather) taught me that building relationships is the key to being a successful salesperson.
      So, although “sales” may have and, perhaps, continues to conjure up images of slick and sleazy used car salesman, that was not what it was all about 80 years ago. I really don’t think sales is just catching up now. I think sales has always gotten a bad rap.

  12. Deborah Jewell says:

    Greg: I have been in fund development a long time and the basic principles and fundamentals have not changed and are still effective in raising funds for organizations that help change lives. The information age we live in has given us some additional tools but building relationships based on trust is still at the foundation of what we do. Sales has evolved to be more relationship-based like fundraising, not the other way around. Those of us of the Baby Boomer generation still have a negative association with the term salesperson as it conjures up the image of the slick and sleazy used car salesman. I don’t disagree that sales today is far different than it was when I was growing up. Today there are many parallels between the disciplines of fund development and sales as it is now defined. But we were here first, building relationships and moving people to invest in worthy causes. Sales has just caught up.

    • Greg Warner says:

      Very well said Deborah. I like your thought process.
      Only thing is… my dad was in sales. He sold insurance starting in 1962. And my grandfather was in sales too. He sold clothing door to door out of a trunk starting right after the Great Depression. I heard that my great grandfather was a carpenter so I’m figuring he had to sell a little bit too. My ancestors (mostly my dad and grandfather) taught me that building relationships is the key to being a successful salesperson.
      So, although “sales” may have and, perhaps, continues to conjure up images of slick and sleazy used car salesman, that was not what it was all about 80 years ago. I really don’t think sales is just catching up now. I think sales has always gotten a bad rap.

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