The Top 10 Myths About Fundraising Part 8

May 12, 2017

Fundraising is the same as sales.

used car sales man

This is a common misconception. While it is true that there are a lot of similarities between fundraising and sales, there are some pretty big differences. Everybody needs toilet paper. Whether you buy Charmin, Kirkland or Cottonelle, that is a choice you make. Conversely, nobody needs to give to charity (except for those that tithe — but they’re a whole other ball of wax). Furthermore, you buy toilet paper when you need it — you may not be able to wait a month or two or even six to replenish your supply. There is usually little difference to the donor whether they donate today, tomorrow or in six months (if you are truly donor-centered).

A great example of this was told to me by a donor — he was asked to support a particular campaign (that he had been an annual donor to for many years). This donor personally works on commission and told the canvasser that he could give a modest gift now, but if they waited 3 months for a major deal to close, there would be substantially more money for the charity. The canvasser wanted to close the deal immediately, so the gift was a lower one. The donor felt horrible and that he was treated like an ATM machine — they only called annually to canvass him for his gift. I can see how this would work (potentially) in a sales world, but fail to see how this would be considered a successful canvass in the fundraising world.

Furthermore, sales tend to focus on the transaction while fundraising should focus on the relationship. That being said, however, a good salesman will give you value (or perceived value) well beyond the initial transaction.

There is always a push and pull when comparing sales and fundraising. Many fundraisers think that the job they do is unique and on a morally higher ground than sales. Many salesmen think that fundraisers are salesmen who don’t have to hit their quotas. While it is true that many fundraising organizations have quotas/targets, the pressure is perceived to be much less ruthless than in the world of sales. If fundraising is donor-centered, the donations will flow on the donors’ timelines, not necessarily the organization’s.

In the sales world, most super salesmen are commission-based. This smacks right in the face of ethical fundraising. You pay fundraisers a salary based on their qualifications and experience. You do not pay a percentage of funds raised as this leads to staff working in their own best interest (i.e. to maximize their profit) rather than that of the donor or your organization. Fundraising as a comprehensive activity cannot always be measured by the immediate bottom line. The payoff sometimes comes later. Sometimes much later. Developing relationships and trust often takes time.

Oh, almost forgot — there won’t be an article next Friday due to the long weekend, but stay tuned for Part 9 on May 26th!